Rooney remains calm amid storm over behaviour

Respect is something Rooney himself has recently been accused of lacking, especially when it comes to referees and authority, but the 19-year-old was unrepentant on Monday evening.

He was speaking for the first time since his dismissal during Manchester United's Champions' League tie against Villarreal and brushed aside suggestions that he has had a difficult few days. "It's been easy," Rooney said. "It's been a good week. We got a good result at Anfield."

That goalless draw against Liverpool left United seven points adrift of Chelsea - albeit with a game in hand - but Rooney believes the gap is far from insurmountable.

"Chelsea have had a great start, but we have had a good start as well," the 19-year-old said. "We have had some tough away games and are still unbeaten. It is going to be a tough season again, but hopefully we can snatch the title back off Chelsea."

The comments from Kenyon which, at the time, made some at Stamford Bridge cringe, were dismissed. "I think that is just a lack of respect for the other teams in the Premiership," Rooney said. "There are a lot of good teams and I think there are various clubs which can win the League."

Chief among them, of course, is his belief that United will challenge. "We can still compete with Chelsea - and anyone in the world I think. We have got the players," Rooney said. Never-theless, there was an admission that the champions will be hard to catch.

"They have won all their games and have not conceded a goal. So I think they are doing something right."

Rooney dismissed claims that the Premiership was becoming "boring". "A lot of teams have got a lot better now," he said. "They are going to places like Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford and Anfield and setting their stall out to get something out of the game. If that means 4-5-1 and getting everyone behind the ball, providing they get the result, it is good for that team."

Rooney - who was yesterday banned for two Champions' League matches for his sending off against Villarreal last week - was speaking after being named the Young Player of the Year in the inaugural FIFPro awards in London. The awards are voted for by the 38,000 professional footballers belonging to player organisations. "This award has come from the people who have supported me and been around me for the last few years, so they deserve as much credit as I have got," Rooney said.

Clearly uncomfortable at the surroundings, and shepherded closely by his agent, Paul Stretford, who attempted to veto questions about Rooney's behaviour, the player himself blamed the furore surrounding him on the "stuff printed in the papers". He added that "I've got a good family. I play football, then I go home. I'm a normal person at home".

Rooney said he had had received "brilliant" support from his club. "My team-mates have been fantastic, ever since I moved to Manchester United," he added. "I have settled in well and it has been brilliant playing there."

Being at the club, he said, would only make him better. "I think there is room for improvement in any player, and on the training pitch I always practice to get better and hopefully it works, and in the future I can get better as well," Rooney added.

There was support for him from Frank Lampard, one of three Chelsea players, along with John Terry and Claude Makelele, to make the World XI. "He's got an edge to his game and if you lose it you lose a lot of Wayne," Lampard said.

Following his booking in Belfast, Rooney will miss England's next World Cup qualifier. Lampard added: "We will miss him against Austria. He has been voted the best young player in the world and there's a reason for that. He is a very rare player as he can change a game in an instant."

Even so, both Lampard and Rooney voted for Ronaldinho as Player of the Year. The Brazilian, who Rooney said was "fantastic", won the award. Interestingly, no player from Liverpool was selected for the World XI, although there were five representatives from Milan, the team they beat in the Champions' League final. Ronaldinho, however, named Liverpool along with Chelsea, Real Madrid, Milan and his own Barcelona as "five of the best sides in the world and not just Europe".

He said that he liked the Premiership - "it's one of the most competitive leagues in the world, one of the best" - but having signed an extended deal at the Nou Camp brushed off suggestions that he would ever play here. "I'm very happy at Barcelona and don't see myself playing for any other team," Ronaldinho said.

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