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May 6, 2009

Rooney warns City: United are "best in the world"

For all their grandiose ideas, Wayne Rooney has left Manchester City in no doubt who the current number ones are.

After helping Manchester United to secure a place in the Champions League final last night, Rooney's attentions now switch to Sunday's eagerly-anticipated derby encounter with Mark Hughes' men at Old Trafford.

No-one in the United camp needs any reminding that City chose the commemoration of 50 years since the Munich air tragedy to end their 34-year wait for a win at the Theatre of Dreams.

Since then, the Blue camp has received a massive injection of funds from their new Abu Dhabi-based owners, which effectively makes them top of the Rich List.

Lofty ambitions have been replaced by more realistic ambitions, with Rooney pointing to United's current status as world champions as evidence the old order still remains.

"It is down to them what they do with their money,'' said the England striker.

"But we know we are the best team in the world are at the minute. It is there for them to see.

"Sunday is just one game of football and you cannot read too much into it.

"But it still hurts that they did the double over us last season, so we will be looking to do the same to them, having won at Eastlands.''

Rooney scored the only goal that day, part of an overall contribution to United's season which is cementing his position amongst the most influential players in world football.

Maybe it is because the 23-year-old has been operating in Cristiano Ronaldo's slipstream the development almost seems to have been unnoticed.

Not by Fabio Capello of course, who was at the Emirates Stadium to witness Rooney's performance, along with David Beckham, who left no doubt that, at heart, he remains a United fan.

"I am enjoying my football,'' he admitted.

"It is that time of the season when you want to be at your best and I think I am.''

Yet, as ever, Rooney appears more relaxed talking about others.

That red card spat with Ronaldo during the 2006 World Cup has given way to mutual admiration between the pair, who both benefit from each other's brilliance.

It was Ronaldo who hogged the headlines last night, drilling home a spectacular 40-yard free-kick before starting and finishing a flowing three-man move to slide home his 25th goal of the season. Not bad for someone supposedly a shadow of the player who earned the Ballon D'Or last year.

"Cristiano is an unbelievable player,'' said Rooney.

"For the second goal the ground he made up to get into the box after he laid off the initial pass was amazing. He was so quick.

"He has been playing like he did last season for a while now.

"Despite what everyone says he has still scored 25 goals which is a great tally.''

The only setback for United last night was the red card handed out to Darren Fletcher which means the Scot will sit and watch in the Olympic Stadium, just as Roy Keane and Paul Scholes did at the Nou Camp in 1999.

Recompense, if there is such a thing, will come in the next fortnight as Fletcher helps inch United towards the championship.

With another encounter against what is now a shellshocked Arsenal who have nothing else to play for, sandwiched in between trips to Wigan and Hull, if United win on Sunday it is difficult to see them dropping enough points to give Liverpool even the remotest chance of preventing their old rivals joining them on 18 championship wins.

In addition, the Red Devils have the added incentive of getting the whole thing wrapped up quickly enough to ensure the last-day trip across the Pennines is meaningless, allowing Ferguson to rest his star men for Rome four days later.

"You would like to think we can finish off the league as quickly as possible,'' he said.

"We are in a great position and if we can win the next two matches I think we will be all right.

"Of course, if we won it early it would give us a break before the Champions League final.

"But I have to say, if we have to win the league on the last day of the season I would take that now.''

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