"Gobsmacked" was how Wayne Rooney last night described his reaction to his sending off against Portugal and he denied that he had intended to stamp on Ricardo Carvalho. But while he said that he bore no "ill-feeling" towards Cristiano Ronaldo he criticised his Manchester United team-mate for getting involved in the aftermath of the incident.
Rooney's words followed a statement from Ronaldo in which he said the two players had made-up and exchanged text messages but it would seem that the Portuguese winger's version of events is not quite the same as that of his United team-mate. Rooney said that he was "disappointed he [Ronaldo] chose to get involved". Pointedly, he added: "I suppose I do though have to remember on that particular occasion we were not team-mates."
Ronaldo's appeal to the referee Horacio Elizondo that resulted in a shove from Rooney, as well as a subsequent wink to the bench, has contributed towards a demonisation of the 21-year-old in the English media. There can be little doubt that yesterday's statements were a response, in part, to one tabloid printing Ronaldo's face on a mocked-up dartboard.
If Rooney has been asked to defuse the situation by publicly forgiving Ronaldo then it would appear from his statement that he did so grudgingly. He described himself as "bitterly disappointed" at the decision and maintained that he had been "straight and honest" in his attempt to keep the ball in the passage of play that ended with the incident with Carvalho.
Rooney said: "I remember the incident clearly and have seen it several times since on TV. I am of the same opinion now as I was at the time that what happened didn't warrant a red card. If anything, I feel we should have had a free-kick for the fouls committed on me during the same incident. I want to say absolutely categorically I did not intentionally put my foot down on Ricardo Carvalho. He slid in from behind me and unfortunately ended up in a position where my foot was inevitably going to end up as I kept my balance. That's all there was to it."
Rooney added that unlike many at the World Cup who "would have gone to ground at the slightest contact" his "only thought then was to keep possession". He will have until 6 July to write an apology to Fifa which could see a five-match ban reduced by at least one.
Rooney's statement was released through his management company Proactive, Ronaldo's through his Portuguese agents. United and Sir Alex Ferguson would not have made a public statement but it would have been difficult for Rooney not to respond after Ronaldo's words earlier in the day. The winger's advisors have been concerned by the reception he will get when he returns to England, especially with television pundits such as the BBC's Alan Shearer predicting retribution from Rooney.
Rooney described England's performance after his sending off as "awesome" and thanked those who had helped him recover from his metatarsal injury.
Ronaldo claimed earlier yesterday that there was "absolutely no problem" between the two players.
United had made it clear to Ronaldo that he would not be allowed to join Real Madrid this summer following his statement that he would be interested in joining should Juan Miguel Villar Mir win the presidential elections. Ramon Calderon was named the winner yesterday and Ronaldo backtracked on his desire for a move, blaming a media conspiracy. He certainly owes United. They supported him in his legal case against rape allegations last October - which were dropped - and have not always been impressed with his dedication to the club.
A four-match ban would mean Rooney misses the Euro 2008 qualification matches against Andorra (home), Macedonia (away), Macedonia (home) and Croatia (away) - a blow to Steve McClaren at the start of the campaign. The new manager is facing a chaotic start after Greece, who were due to play in the first friendly of McClaren's reign at Old Trafford on 16 August, were suspended from Fifa yesterday.
The Hellenic Football Federation were disciplined for "government interference" and now it appears that the Football Association, who require Fifa approval for all matches, may have to find new opposition.Reuse content