The Derby County boss had sparked off somewhat of a difference of opinion with his former Manchester United teammate after comments on his future on Monday night
It was another frustrating day for Cristiano Ronaldo, who ended the game limping with a bloody and wounded leg – and was unable to make a difference for Ralf Rangnick’s side, who had no inventiveness in the final third and could not provide a goal scoring threat. It is likely to raise fresh questions about the future of the players in the United squad, including the 37-year-old.
Portuguese superstar Ronaldo rejoined United in a high-profile summer transfer last year after his exit from Juventus. It ensured the forward was back at United after 11 years away from Old Trafford and has been the club’s top scorer this campaign with 18 strikes in 33 outings across all competitions.
Ronaldo has produced some breathtaking heroics, especially in the Champions League group stage – where he bagged six goals in five appearances – yet he is inevitably going to endure a physical decline. On Monday night, his former United teammate Wayne Rooney acknowledged the “important goals” Ronaldo has contributed this season, but insisted United would be better off relying on “young, hungry players” going forward.
Rooney emphasised the need for his more junior teammates to “bring energy”, adding: “I think they’ve got good young players. I think [Jadon] Sancho will be better next year, I think Marcus [Rashford] will be better next year. They’ve got good young players, I think Jesse Lingard should be playing for them because he brings energy, he brings quality.
“Scott McTominay has done well, so they have got some good young players. They just have to get that confidence, get them believing they are good players and perform at a better level and then obviously whoever the new manager is he’ll bring his own players in and try to rebuild that group.”
Ronaldo appeared to have taken issue with Rooney’s comments and hit back at his ex-teammate’s Instagram post from Monday Night Football alongside Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher and presenter David Jones by posting the comment: “Two jealous.” It was a comment that appeared to be a light-hearted jibe at Rooney’s comments that United would be better off without the Portuguese forward in their squad next season.
Rooney then went on to admit in Thursday’s press conference ahead of Derby’s weekend clash against Reading in the Championship that he – and almost anyone else in football – were of course jealous of Ronaldo. The Rams boss said of Ronaldo’s Instagram post: “I saw that this morning! I would probably say that there is not a footballer on the planet who is not jealous of Cristiano! The career he has had, the trophies he has won, the money he has earned…and the six-pack, his body. I think every player bar Lionel Messi is jealous of Cristiano!”
Yet Rooney’s latest comments appear to have once again been vindicated by Ronaldo’s struggles at Goodison Park. It was another display that is likely to lead to fresh question marks over his future at Old Trafford beyond the current campaign – even though his contract runs through to the summer of 2023, while he is hopeful of being a starter at a top club ahead of the upcoming World Cup finals this winter.
Ronaldo and Rooney spent five seasons together at United – when the latter joined Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad from Everton in the summer of 2004. The two went on to form one of European football’s most explosive attacks over the course of five years before Ronaldo joined Real Madrid.
The two were fundamental parts of the all-conquering Red Devils squad who won three successive Premier League titles between 2007 and 2009, alongside winning the 2008 Champions League title and reaching the following year’s final. United won a total of seven trophies when the two stars were in the squad, including the League Cup, Club World Cup and Community Shield trophies.