Wayne Rooney was hailed for his comments about former Manchester United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.
The five-time Balon d’Or winner has struggled for form this term. In 16 appearances for Man Utd, including 10 starts, the 37-year-old has managed just three goals in all competitions.
Meanwhile, off the pitch, Ronaldo has had moments of tension with boss Erik ten Hag. The Portuguese star was absent for large parts of pre-season having made it clear he wanted to leave the club.
He was then dropped from the match-day squad and forced to train alone for a period of time after refusing to come on as a substitute in Man Utd’s 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur last month.
The player has received support from some swathes of media, including from former Man Utd captain Roy Keane, who blamed ten Hag for the forward’s frustration and insisted he “would be more worried” if the football great was “laughing and joking on the bench”.
In contrast, Rooney, who is Man Utd’s record goalscorer, praised ten Hag’s handling of the star.
Man Utd worse with Ronaldo
The former striker said: “I think Ten Hag has done really well, I think he’s come in and stamped his authority on the team. I think for the first time in two or three years, I’m starting to see an identity with Manchester United which I haven’t seen for the last two or three years.
“He showed his strength and character in how he dealt with Cristiano at times with some of the stuff he’s been up to, so I really think he’s the right man for the job, I think it will take time, but a real step in the right direction will be to finish inside the top four and get Champions League football again.”
When asked if Manchester United were a better team with Ronaldo in the side Rooney responded: “I don’t think so.
“The career he’s had. He and [Lionel] Messi are arguably the two best players of all time. You can go either way with that – whichever way you decide.
“But I just think that the things he’s done from the start of the season are not acceptable for Manchester United.
“Obviously I’ve seen Roy Keane defend him. Roy wouldn’t accept that – Roy wouldn’t accept that at all really.
“It’s a distraction Man Utd don’t need at the minute. They’re trying to rebuild.
“For Cristiano just get your head down and work and be ready to play when the manager needs you. I think if he does that he’ll be an asset. If he doesn’t I think he will become an unwanted distraction.”
Rooney’s calls for Ronaldo to work harder and force his way back into the starting line-up were met with widespread praise on Twitter.
One user, Dean Halalbert said: “Wazza the true hero.”
Meanwhile, Mathew Foley added: “He’s right. Keane wouldn’t of accepted it at all as a manager or a player and captain.”
JoveeeOfficial said: “Spot on Wazza.. An ex-teammate/player spitting facts.”