Giggs backs Rooney to join the elite

Ryan Giggs believes Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney is edging closer to the select group of players currently regarded the best in the world.

The 24-year-old has just completed a memorable week, which began with his first four-goal haul in the victory over Hull.

Rooney then headed home the injury-time goal that secured another Wembley appearance for the Red Devils at the expense of Manchester City in the Carling Cup, before finally finishing off a sensational second goal in United's demolition of title rivals Arsenal at the weekend.

And Giggs believes Rooney's form could soon earn him the kind of recognition currently enjoyed by Lionel Messi, Kaka and former Old Trafford team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, the three men widely acknowledged to be the best on the planet.

"He is getting nearer that group," said the veteran Welshman. "You have seen it for England and for us on the bigger stages. That is what all the top players do.

"The best thing is that Wayne is still developing. He is 24 now but he is only going to get better.

"His appetite is strong and he is a great player to have in your team."

Rooney's talent has never been in question since he first burst onto the scene as a raw teenager with Everton, scoring a memorable winner against Arsenal at Goodison Park in 2003.

He followed that up by becoming one of England's key men at Euro 2004 before moving on to United, where his talent is set to earn him a lucrative new contract this summer.

It is a different quality Giggs notes.

At the level he has operated at for almost two decades, pure ability is almost taken for granted. What Giggs likes about Rooney is his willingness to keep working when events conspire against him.

"Even if he is not playing well he still causes problems for the other team," he said. "That is a very rare quality.

"Even with players who are genuine match-winners, if they are not playing so well, normally you don't see them.

"But if Wayne is not having the best of games, which is not very often, he never gives up.

"He believes he is going to create chances. He believes he will get them and he believes he is going to score goals.

"More often than not, he does."

Chelsea's failure to beat Hull at the KC Stadium last night means United are only two points behind Carlo Ancelotti's men as they chase a record fourth successive championship win.

The dilemma for Ferguson now is when to give Rooney a break.

A meeting with basement boys Portsmouth at Old Trafford on Saturday would appear to be an opportunity, especially as United visit Aston Villa on February 10 in another of those "must-win" games.

Yet Ferguson also knows Rooney's importance to his side is growing, with Giggs chiming in with his manager's assessment that the Merseysider has moved his contribution to a different level now he is concentrating on the core aspects of his job.

"Wayne has taken his game to another level," said Giggs.

"Everyone knows what Wayne is like. He wants to be involved. He wants to set up the play and finish the moves.

"Sometimes you cannot do that but he has learnt to be patient.

"He has developed his game so that now he is a goalscorer as well as joining in with the overall play.

"I know if I am putting the ball in the box, with his movement and bravery, Wayne is going to get on the end of things.

"Wayne has worked hard at that part of his game and he has definitely improved."

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