SHANGHAI, April 25 -- Manchester United had the perfect solution to its injury crisis: Wayne Rooney, The Associated Press reported.
With AC Milan closing on a draw with two crucial away goals, Rooney rescued United's Champions League bid with an injury time goal for a 3-2 victory yesterday in the first leg of the semifinals.
"It proves we've got the quality to win this tournament," manager Alex Ferguson said.
United looked doomed before the Old Trafford encounter, missing eight players -- including three first-choice defenders -- against the experienced Italians, who had rested players this past weekend.
"We kept going to the end," Rooney said. "We knew if we could get a victory here, it will be easier when we go to the away leg."
After a European goal drought of more than two years, the England striker has erupted with four in three games.
His right-footed strike from the top of the area beat goalkeeper Dida just inside the near post and completed United's comeback from a 2-1 deficit.
"Up until then we had the game pretty much in hand -- the game was over and it was a good result for us," Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "Now with that goal, it's complicated matters somewhat."
The late goal reinforced thoughts of an all-English final. Chelsea plays Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in London in the other first-leg semifinal today. AC Milan will host the second leg against Manchester United on May 2.
"We persevered. We kept playing our football, some of which was fantastic and we dominated the second half," Ferguson said. "We got hold of the game and the equalizer gave us the impetus to go on and win it."
The Red Devils led in the fifth minute when Cristiano Ronaldo headed a corner off Dida's shoulder. The ball deflected up, and Dida scrambled back only to get a finger tip to it before it dropped into the goal.
Kaka sparked AC Milan, scoring in the 22nd and 37th minutes to put the Rossineri ahead by halftime.
The Brazilian, the competition's top scorer, ran onto a through ball from Clarence Seedorf, avoided a sliding tackle from Gabriel Heinze and struck a left-footed shot past Edwin Van der Sar.
Kaka added his ninth European goal of the season by capitalizing on a defensive mistake. He rounded Darren Fletcher, headed the ball forward and scored unmarked after Heinze collided with Patrice Evra.
Rooney equalized after Paul Scholes chipped the ball over the Milan defense, hitting a right-footed shot that Dida was only able to partially block. It was only the third away goal Milan had conceded in the competition this season.
"It's a bitter defeat but now we hope that at home our public helps us to get to the final," Kaka said. "We did something wrong. Now we have to correct it."
Within a minute of his second goal, Kaka was denied a third by Van der Sar's fingertips.
Milan captain Paolo Maldini was replaced at halftime because of a knee injury.
Evra started at left back for Manchester United after recovering from an ankle injury, but received a yellow card for a challenge on Massimo Oddo in the 42nd minute and will miss the second leg.
Two minutes after the break, Michael Carrick squandered chance at far post, turning a corner from Ryan Giggs wide.
A minute later, Kaka had another chance at a third but sent a pass from Seedorf wide.
Dida produced a fine reaction save to deny Darren Fletcher in the 64th.