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Rooney licks wounds

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney will be spurred on against AC Milan tonight by the pain of losing last season's Champions League final to Barcelona -- and the joy of winning the previous one against Chelsea.

The 24-year-old, who will lead the Red Devils attack at the San Siro in the first leg of the last-16 encounter, has 21 goals to his name in the Premier League this term.

He has not scored in the Champions League this season, however, and aims to put that right in Milan as he looks to erase the memory of the 2-0 loss to Barca in Rome last May.

"It was a weird night," Rooney said. "It was obviously an achievement to get there, but then it was just a horrible, horrible feeling losing to Barcelona.

"The memory of that night has made me determined to get back there again.

"Actually, what motivates me even more is the previous season when we won the final in Moscow. The feeling after that game was something special, probably the best moment of my career so far, and I want to experience it again.

"But Barcelona hurt us all."

The England forward also has bad memories of past meetings with the Rossoneri, having been dumped out of the Champions League by the Italian giants in 2005 and 2007.

"It is going to be a difficult game because they are a very experienced side," he said.

"I've already played them twice in the Champions League and each time they knocked us out, so we know it will be tough, but hopefully this time we can come out on top.

"They've got quite a few, players like Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo, David Beckham from set pieces, and Alexandre Pato is a quality player too. All their players can produce something special, so we have to be careful.

"It is always difficult to play Italian opposition. At the beginning of the season I think they were struggling a bit, but over the last couple of months they found some good form and they are playing well, so it will be a difficult game for us.

"Personally I know how tough it is going to be, especially if Alessandro Nesta is playing for them.

"In the other games, his positional sense was brilliant, and it was difficult. Because he reads the game so well, it was difficult to play against him.

"It's where I have to take the chances I get, because there won't be many. In the Premier League you know that you're always likely to create a few chances every game.

"But in the Champions League, especially the knockout rounds, you know if you have a chance you really have to take it -- because you might not get another chance in the game."

Rooney also warned his team-mates to be on guard to snuff out of the threat of his England colleague David Beckham, who will be facing United for the first time since leaving Old Trafford for Real Madrid in 2003.

"Of course David has changed the way he plays from when he was younger but he is still a quality player," added the former Everton frontman.

"You know that when he gets the ball out wide more often then not it is going in the box and players can get on the end of it.

"We will have to beware of his free-kicks and corners, those can be brilliant.

"Just like Ryan Giggs, David is an inspiration for how he has played at the top for so long. David is a very professional lad, he's done well, he's still a player young lads look up to and want to emulate. He's had a great career and is still going."

Rooney, meanwhile, is revelling in the role of United talisman since the summer departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Madrid.

"I've got more responsibility in the team now and I'm enjoying having more of that responsibility," he said.

"I know it's there and it doesn't bother me at all. I like having it.

"Wherever I've played, I have always given my all. It's the only way I know how to play.

"But with the system we use, the difference is I'm playing up front instead of Ronaldo now, whereas before I might be put out wide.

"The truth is I'm loving being the main striker up front on my own, that is my favourite position.

"I would have to say this has been my best season so far as a professional. I am playing well, and scoring more goals."