Rooney: “My mate Cristiano is the world’s best player”March 1, 2007
Not only are the two young players increasingly close team-mates and friends in Sir Alex Ferguson’s rampaging squad, but Rooney is also happy to concede that Ronaldo has recently outstripped him on the field to the extent that he now believes him to be the best player in the world.
“Yeah, he’s been brilliant, especially after all he had to cope with on coming back from the World Cup,” said Rooney this week.
“It was very difficult for him, with all the media attention. But he’s come through that and he’s been absolutely fantastic this season.
“Hopefully that will continue, and he’ll hopefully help us bring back some silverware this season.
“Is there rivalry between us? No, no, not at all.
“I’m just delighted that he’s playing for us because at this moment in time he is the best player in the world – not just the best young player, but the best player full stop.
“There’s certainly no jealousy on my part over that. You want to play with the best players, and it’s great to be in the same team as Cristiano.”
When Ronaldo was seen winking at the Portugal bench in the wake of Rooney’s sending-off in Gelsenkirchen last summer, it was difficult to see how the two young players would ever be able to function together in the same team again.
Indeed it was not long before Ronaldo suggested that would like to leave United for Spain.
Rooney, however, has taken all the fuss in his stride and it is not Ronaldo’s part in England?s World Cup failure that rankles with him now.
It is the part played by England’s own players.
“In the two major tournaments I’ve played in – Euro 2004 and the World Cup – myself and the rest of the lads were guilty of putting too much pressure on ourselves before we even got out there,” he reflected.
“Saying we were going to win it doesn’t help, and we were guilty of that.
“Being realistic, I think the whole country would have been delighted if we’d reached the semi finals, and then saw if we could go on from there.
“But we built ourselves up, and then the press whipped the country up into a frenzy and then slaughtered us for not playing well.
“I’d like to think we can win something during my career, because we have got some great players in this country.
“But the expectation is always far too high, and that is a problem.”
Expectation is certainly high at United right now, as Ferguson’s improving team moves towards its first Premiership title since 2003.
United are nine points clear of champions Chelsea as they approach Saturday’s game at Liverpool and Rooney believes Ferguson’s team will continue to get better over the coming months and years.
He added: “I don’t think there’s any secret to it, to be honest.
“I think we’ve brought quite a few young players into the club over the past few seasons – the likes of myself, Cristiano Ronaldo, Darren Fletcher, Kieron Richardson – and it’s taken time to get to know the rest of the squad really well and to learn to play together.
“Last season we finished second and did reasonably well, but this season we’ve stepped up and played well all the way through the season so far.
“It takes time.
“It’s like when you go away with England and a new player comes in. It takes a while to get to know the way they play, but it comes in time.
“I think that’s been the main difference between this season and last. We’re playing off each other and we’ve got confidence as a result of that, which shows in the results we’ve had.”
By his own admission, Rooney’s personal form has not always been at its peak this season. Periods of frequent goal scoring have been separated by times when goals have been hard to come by.
Rooney – who has still not scored in Europe since his debut in August 2004 – claims not be worried and credits Ferguson with helping him through.
“It was well documented that I never scored goals for a certain amount of games, but I didn’t let it get me down,” he said.
“I just kept going and playing my game, and it came in the end.
“I don’t think the manager was concerned, no.
“He just told me to keep playing and keep it simple, and that the goals would come soon enough.
“I know my game’s not all about goals, which is all that matters.
“I’d happily go through the whole season without a single goal if it meant us winning the league.”