Zidane, Platini, Rooney: McLeish puts wonder Wayne among world's best
17 August 2009 01:48
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Wayne Rooney was last night placed in the same bracket as world greats Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini after his goal gave Manchester United victory.
The compliment came from Birmingham manager Alex McLeish after Rooney's first-half strike ensured that Sir Alex Ferguson's champions got their title defence off to a winning start.
Playing through the middle as a central striker now that Cristiano Ronaldo has left the club, Rooney has been challenged by United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to score 25 goals this season.
Natural footballer: Wayne Rooney
Afterwards McLeish said: 'Every so often natural footballers come along. You get players like Zidane and Platini and now there is Wayne Rooney.
'They are natural and so hard to play against. You can't really coach them. You can tell them a few things and talk to them about positional play, but that's about it.'
You prepare to play against them but Rooney drops into pockets and it becomes very difficult to close him down.'
With Ronaldo part of the club's history, Ferguson has asked Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and new signing Michael Owen to make up the difference.
The United manager said: 'Wayne is off to a flying start and he took his goal well. The header was a good one, but he reacted the right way by following up for the rebound.
'With his goal in the Community Shield last week, hopefully he is on the road to getting a significant total for us this season. He is capable of getting more than 20 goals for us. We know it's not impossible for the boy and hopefully he will do that.
'It will be great if we can get three strikers getting more than 20 goals each. They are capable of that. Some of our supporters are worried that we have not bought a megastar to replace Ronaldo and it is true that the competition will be fiercer this season, with Manchester City's owners raising the bar in the transfer market.
'But I'm more than happy with my squad, and though we have lost a major player I believe we're on the threshold of an exciting era.'
Birmingham posed a sporadic threat to United yesterday and McLeish will be happy with his team's efforts.
Ferguson added: 'The first game of the season can be like that sometimes for us. Three points is better than we have done for the last couple of years.
'I will take eight one-nils every season. Everybody lives on their nerves here - the staff, myself, the fans, the players - nobody gets an easy ride.'