Former Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney has described the red card he got during the 2006 World Cup, when then-teammate Cristiano Ronaldo urged the referee to send him off, as the ‘starting point’ of their successful partnership together.
One the press didn’t see coming.
There was media furore but Rooney and Ronaldo went from strength to strength under Sir Alex Ferguson, who we are sure had a big say in the aftermath to ensure there wasn’t a fallout as expected at the time.
United went on to win three back-to-back Premier League titles, as well as the Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup and League Cup. We were emerging as United’s best team when the incident happened — and perhaps the two star players used it to their advantage by putting more fire in their bellies for success.
Rooney has said that he never blamed Ronaldo for his behaviour. In fact, he would probably have done the same himself if it had been roles reversed.
“I put myself in Ronaldo’s shoes. Would I do the same? Probably,” Rooney explained in his latest column for the Sunday Times. “Would I be in the ref’s face to make sure he got send off? If he deserved the red, if it would help us win — yes, no question. I’d do it tomorrow.”
Reflecting on his thoughts at the time, he added, “I tried to get him booked in the first half for diving. And the wink thing, I didn’t see anything in that at all. It was nothing.”
Rooney pushed Ronaldo at the time but once he had calmed down in the dressing room he knew it was important to put it behind him as it was crucial that they’d clear the air in person and speak that day.
“I felt it was important to speak to him while it was still fresh and do it face to face. He gave me a look as if to say sorry but by then I had my United head on,” Rooney added, and told Ronaldo, “I’ve no issues with you” before wishing his teammate the best of luck for the rest of the tournament.
“Let’s go try and win the league”he also told the Portuguese winger, which shows the incredible mentality they had from a young age.
Rooney was 20 when this happened. Ronaldo was 21. They were two young lads both after making mistakes. Looking back now we see how they still had their heads screwed on with being successful at United always being priority.
“The press tried to drag it out all summer, saying we had issues, but we had none. In the first game of the new season we beat Fulham 5-1. I scored two and set him up for one and that calmed everything down. In the dressing room we were always really close.
“What had happened brought us closer together on the pitch. The next three years were our best as a partnership and brought three titles and the Champions League. My red card in Gelsenkirchen was the starting point… What came out of it was a bond between me and Cristiano Ronaldo that pushed us — and Manchester United — to the greatest highs.”
In Rooney’s 2015 documentary, The Man Behind the Goals, Ronaldo explained that he was never worried about a problem between them, only a backlash from English fans.
To put that into some perspective he was still a kid in a foreign country. He was bound to be fearful of that, but he could not have had a better manager to protect him in Ferguson.
“The media created a big drama which never existed. So when I arrived back in England I was kind of afraid, not because of Rooney but because of England supporters. They made a huge story when I did the wink, but it was not because of the circumstances with Rooney, it was another situation.”
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