The Manchester United defender John O'Shea is convinced that the more abuse Cristiano Ronaldo receives, the better it will be for the club.
Ronaldo plays his first Premiership away game since the World Cup at Charlton Athletic tonight, knowing that he is guaranteed a frosty reception from Addicks fans.
Having been made the scapegoat for England's World Cup demise and lambasted in public by Alan Shearer, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard for his role in Wayne Rooney's quarter-final dismissal, Ronaldo's appearance at The Valley is sure to be greeted by jeers.
O'Shea said: "Cristiano knows what is coming but I think he will thrive on it.
"You can see from the goals he has scored how he reacts to the test. Our players always seem to be targeted for certain things but it just tends to spur them on. In fact, I think the more people boo him, the better it will be for us.
"Soon enough I am sure people will start to realise it is better to leave him alone, then the whole thing will start to die off."
United could certainly do with Ronaldo on top form, given their lack of available firepower. Paul Scholes and Rooney miss out as they begin their controversial three-match suspensions, while Ryan Giggs is a doubt after being stamped on by the Fulham midfielder Michael Brown on Saturday. Much has been made of Rooney's suspension, with the England striker threatening to withdraw his co-operation from all commercial activities related to the Football Association in retaliation for what he sees as unfair treatment.
O'Shea admitted that he could not see enough in Rooney's challenge on Porto defender Pepe to warrant a dismissal, although he does not think the 20-year-old's absence could be used as an excuse for a drop in standards after the Red Devils' scintillating performance against Fulham.
"There always seems to be a challenge for Manchester United," he said. "We just have to rise to it. So early in the season we cannot be relying on the excuse that we are missing a couple of players. That is why we have such a talented squad. All it does is provide someone else with an opportunity to come in."
If Giggs is fit he should replace Scholes alongside O'Shea in central midfield, with Kieran Richardson taking over on the left wing.
Although Giuseppe Rossi scored twice for the second team at Preston, Ronaldo is set to be pressed into service as an emergency striker alongside Louis Saha, having already partnered the Frenchman in the friendly win over Seville earlier this month.
That move should see Park Ji-Sung introduced on the right, ensuring United retain much of the pace in attack which proved so devastating against Fulham.
While Sir Alex Ferguson's side appear well placed to pick up another three points, the chances of signing Owen Hargreaves before the transfer window shuts on August 31 appear to be receding fast.
The England midfielder has been warned by Bayern's general manager, Uli Hoeness, to keep quiet after agitating for a move to Old Trafford. Now the club chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, has threatened to report United to Fifa if they keep pursuing the player.Reuse content