EPL

'There was no other choice' – Rooney unsurprised by Ronaldo's Man Utd exit

By Sports Desk November 22, 2022

Wayne Rooney was not surprised by Manchester United's decision to part company with Cristiano Ronaldo, saying the club had "no other choice".

Ronaldo's United departure seemed inevitable when he gave an explosive interview to Piers Morgan, saying the club had "betrayed" him and declaring he did not respect manager Erik ten Hag.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner also used the interview to attack several former United players who had criticised his conduct this season.  

Rooney labelled Ronaldo's actions an "unwanted distraction" after he was suspended by United for refusing to come on as a substitute in last month's win over Tottenham, comments the Portugal forward subsequently said were rooted in jealousy. 

On Tuesday, United announced Ronaldo had left the club by mutual agreement, a decision Rooney believes was inevitable.

Speaking to Sports 18 following the club's announcement, Rooney said: "Am I surprised? No. 

"There was no other choice, but that's a shame because he's been a fantastic servant to the club. I wish him the best wherever he goes."

Ronaldo leaves United having scored 145 goals across two spells at Old Trafford, though he only found the net once for the Red Devils in the Premier League this campaign.

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    Luke Shaw challenged Marcus Rashford to match his "unplayable" display against Wales throughout the rest of England's World Cup campaign.

    Rashford scored England's opener and their final goal in a 3-0 win over their British rivals at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Tuesday.

    The victory sent England into the last 16 as Group B winners, and they will now face Senegal for a place in the quarter-finals.

    Rashford, one of four new faces introduced by Gareth Southgate for the game, curled in a wonderful free-kick to break the deadlock early in the second half, before he doubled his tally with a low shot after a mazy run, with Wales goalkeeper Danny Ward allowing the ball through his legs.

    After becoming the first Manchester United player to score three goals at a World Cup since Bobby Charlton in 1966, when England won the trophy, Rashford must now replicate that level of performance time and time again, according to his club-mate Shaw.

    When asked by Stats Perform what he thought of Rashford's display, Shaw replied: "He's so good, the talent he's got, he can be unplayable. 

    "I think he needs to deliver that every single game he plays. He's got the quality that can make a difference, he's an unbelievable player and one that can make the difference for us.

    "Hopefully he can keep those standards high and keep doing it."

    Rashford, who finished with six shots, only one fewer than the entire Wales team managed combined, had scored eight times in 19 appearances for United this season heading into the World Cup, and Shaw has full faith the 25-year-old will keep up his form.

    "Very confident. I see it day in, day out – what he's doing, how he's training," Shaw added. "He took his chance, I think it was his time to start and for me he took his chance.

    "He needs to keep the standards high now, because he's a really important player."

    Phil Foden was a star of the show along with Rashford.

    Having faced criticism from some quarters for not bringing the Manchester City youngster on against the United States last week, Southgate started Foden in place of Bukayo Saka.

    While Foden took a while to get going, he clicked through the gears as the first half wore on and was on the end of a brilliant Harry Kane delivery to make it 2-0 just 98 seconds after Rashford's opener.

    "Not just the ones that started today, you look at the bench and the quality we have, we have World Class players who if they're not starting can come on and change a game," Shaw said when asked if Foden could be decisive in pushing England deep into the tournament.

    "Phil didn't get a chance against the USA but he came in and was the wonderful player we all know, getting on the ball, making things happen, scoring a very important goal at a crucial time and that’s what we want from all of them. We need them to be like that."

    Rashford revealed after the match that he had recently suffered the loss of a friend, and Shaw – whose grandmother passed away shortly before the World Cup – explained the unique unity of the England camp had been crucial in helping him overcome the loss.

    "One million per cent," Shaw said. "The togetherness is not something I've witnessed in a team before.

    "Everyone is so close together, we get on so well and push each other every day to get better and keep the standards high. It brings everyone closer together."

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    United States captain Tyler Adams paid tribute to his team's unity during Tuesday's crucial 1-0 World Cup win over Iran, while defender Tim Ream applauded the skipper's impact.

    Christian Pulisic got the winning goal for the USA just before half-time at Al Thumama Stadium, a victory that secured their progression to the last 16.

    The build-up to the game was dominated by geopolitical topics due to the two nations' strained relationship, with this their first World Cup meeting since a clash at France 1998 that was dubbed the "most politically charged game" in tournament history.

    Iran won that encounter 2-1 in Lyon, but this time the USA got the victory over the line. As superior as they were in the first half, Gregg Berhalter's men were far less dominant after Pulisic's forced withdrawal – due to a pelvic contusion that will be managed "day-to-day" – at half-time.

    Iran piled the pressure on towards the end and went close twice in stoppage time, but the USA held out to set up a clash with the Netherlands.

    Given they did not even qualify for the last World Cup, their progression shows how far the USA have come in recent years, and Adams' comments reflected the feel-good factor surrounding the team.

    "For me, I have obviously dreamed of playing in a World Cup, and I didn't know when that time would come," he told reporters. "Obviously that has come now. I am very proud to be representing the US and this team.

    "The group we have in this locker room is superb, every day we show up and try and get better, and focus on getting better.

    "Tonight was one of those nights where you knew you could look to your left and look to your right and there was someone battling for you."

    The USA have only ever been beyond the last 16 at a men's World Cup once in its current format, back in 2002 when a Landon Donovan-inspired side reached the quarter-finals.

    Standing in the way of matching that accomplishment are the Netherlands, and the size of the task facing the USA is not lost on Adams, who rates the Oranje among the best in Qatar.

    "Obviously it is a big opportunity for us; an amazing game," he said. "We have obviously played against good teams here already like England; the Netherlands could be another favourite to win the World Cup and they have done really well to navigate their way through the tournament so far.

    "They've some amazing players, we are going to have to be ready. For now, we will try to have some downtime and relax to regain our focus. Our coaches will obviously come up with a game plan to get us ready."

    Adams' performance was vital to the USA prevailing, with the Leeds United midfielder's poise key to their first-half control and his tenacity important in disrupting an improved Iran after the break.

    His 84 touches, 62 completed passes and 12 recoveries were all highs for the match, while Adams also tallied the second-most tackle attempts (three) on the USA team, successfully taking back possession on each occasion.

    Ream, playing behind Adams at centre-back, saw his captain's performance at close quarters and was grateful for his protection.

    "[Adams] makes everyone's job a little bit easier. The amount of ground he covers, his energy, tenacity, work rate; it's just incredible what he does on a football pitch.

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    Of course, it was not the first time this week Adams has been under the spotlight.

    He faced up to some awkward questions in Monday's pre-match press conference, with an Iranian journalist calling him out over his pronunciation of Iran.

    Suffice to say, Ream joined the chorus of praise for how Adams handled that particular situation.

    "I thought it was brilliant," Ream said. "It is what it is, that's the world we're living in right now.

    "For him to handle it with the poise that he did, and the sincerity that he showed, I think was fantastic."

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    Frappart will be in the middle for the Group E encounter at Al Bayt Stadium on Thursday, in which both teams can still qualify for the knockout stage in Qatar.

    She was one of three female referees selected as part of the pool for the World Cup in May, along with Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda and Yoshimi Yamashita of Japan.

    Frappart is no stranger to making history in the international game, having also been the first woman to officiate a men's World Cup qualifying match in March 2021 between the Netherlands and Latvia.

    The French official has also refereed high-profile men's games at club level before, including the 2019 UEFA Super Cup between Chelsea and Liverpool, and a year later she became the first female referee of a Champions League group game, taking charge of Juventus' match against Dynamo Kyiv.

    "The men's World Cup is the most important competition in the world, not only football," she told The Athletic in May when she was selected for the tournament. "But I was the first female referee in France, the first in Europe, every time the first. I know how to deal with that... You're there because you deserve it."

    The entire on-field officiating team for the game will be female, with Frappart joined by assistants Neuza Back and Karen Diaz.

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