|Manchester United and Chelsea both have their eyes on the prize [GALLO/GETTY]|
Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney has taken a swipe at Chelsea striker Didier Drogba’s temperament ahead of the Uefa Champions League final.
“Sometimes he seems as if his head’s not quite there,” Rooney said.
It was unusually candid comment from the softly spoken Rooney as he broke off from preparations for his first European final.
He’ll have to hope the dig doesn’t backfire in Moscow on Wednesday.
Drogba reacted angrily when accused of being a continual diver by Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez before the semifinal match with Chelsea.
The Ivory Coast international’s response was to score two goals, including the winner, to help secure Chelsea’s trip to Luzniki Stadium.
Rooney himself has been rebuked for being hotheaded on the field, most strikingly when he was sent off for England at the 2006 World Cup for stamping on Portugal defender Ricardo Carvalho.
And while highlighting Drogba’s flaw, Rooney does acknowledge the danger he poses.
“When he’s at his best, he’s an unbelievable player,” Rooney said.
“He’s big, strong, he scores goals, left foot, right foot, headers, at times he is unplayable.”
First goal the key
Drogba scored the winning goal in last season’s FA Cup final against Man United, and Rooney is afraid Chelsea might be hard to break down if it scores early.
“Chelsea may be a little bit more defensive and if they go one up, it’s very difficult to get back at them,” he said.
|Didier Drogba “sometimes unplayable”
“If we go one up, we’d keep trying to get a second goal.”
While Rooney has 20 goals this season, winger Cristiano Ronaldo has eclipsed him with a staggering haul of 41.
“I’ve changed my game a little bit this year,” Rooney said.
“Instead of playing in the hole or off one forward, I’ve mainly been the striker looking to get in behind and I’ve enjoyed doing it this year. To be honest, a lot more than I thought I would.
“I’ve got no problem if Ronaldo scores 60 goals in a season and I don’t get anywhere near that. I hope the partnership will continue for years. Ronaldo is a great player and it will be brilliant if we can keep him at the club for as long as possible.”
Rooney doesn’t feel under pressure to find the target.
“I think I can score a few more goals, possibly with my left foot and a few more headers,” he said.
“I keep working on my passing, my fitness and scoring goals.
“It doesn’t really matter to me what other people expect. It’s what I expect of myself and what the manager expects of me. As long as I’m happy and the manager’s happy and I’m doing well for the team, I’m not worried.”
Waiting for Christmas in Moscow
Rooney believes the Red Devils have a swagger after edging the Blues in the league.
“We will be bit a bit more relaxed with the Premier League in the bag and they might be anxious if they don’t win anything,” he said.
“It’s a horrible feeling waiting for the final. I’d like to go to bed tonight and wake up on Wednesday.
“It’s a bit like Christmas when you’re a kid, so I just can’t wait.”
Despite rising through the ranks at Everton, Rooney quietly admired Alex Ferguson’s side throughout the 1990s before switching to Old Trafford in 2004.
He recalls watching United’s 1999 Champions League final victory over Bayern Munich with mostly Liverpool-supporting friends in his native city.
“When they won I was really happy, and we were winding the Liverpool fans up,” Rooney said.
“I remember listening to the radio after the game and they were speaking to a lot of fans around Manchester and the atmosphere there sounded brilliant, so hopefully I can be involved in helping that this year.”