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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pizarro blasts 'spiteful' and 'arrogant' Ronaldo

Roma midfielder David Pizarro rates Cristiano Ronaldo as a great player but reckons the Manchester United winger has a lot to learn regarding sportsmanship.

Pizarro accused Ronaldo of showing arrogance and a lack of respect towards his opponents in United's 2-0 Champions League quarter-final first-leg win in the Eternal City on Tuesday.

Ronaldo, who scored the opener with a stunning header and almost made it 3-0 when he hit the bar, was booed by the home crowd for teasing opposing defenders with his tricks on the pitch.

'Despite the fact that he is a great champion, he is very arrogant,' said Pizarro. 'He does certain spiteful things on the pitch.

'This is the ugliest thing for a player. In the return leg I will have something to say to him.'

The Portugal international defended his actions after helping his team put one foot in the semi-finals.

'It's nothing against my rivals,' said the 23-year-old. 'Those plays are just part of my way of interpreting football.

'I have always done them, even three or four years ago when I was younger.

'But there are plays that I do for the good of the team and never to ridicule my opponents.

'I tried to do the best for Manchester United and not to make a show. It's just a part of who I am.'

Ronaldo believes Roma have improved since last year - when United eliminated the Giallorossi with a humiliating 7-1 defeat at Old Trafford at the same stage of the competition - but says United have also also grown stronger in the last 12 months.

'I don't think we can talk about a Roma weakness but rather about the strength of Manchester United,' he said.

'Last season we didn't know Roma but this time, we have been perfect in defence.'

Despite his team having taken a giant step towards the last four, Ronaldo prefers to remain cautious.

'It would be bad to think we have done the job,' he warned. 'We have next week's game and although a win away from home gives us confidence, we still have to seal qualification.'

Ferguson and Queiroz hit by FA charges

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and assistant manager Carlos Queiroz have been charged with improper conduct by the Football Association.

The charges relate to comments made following United's FA Cup defeat to Portsmouth last month.

Ferguson's charge concerns comments about referee Martin Atkinson and Professional Game Match Officials (PGMO) general manager Keith Hackett.

Queiroz's charge relates to comments about Atkinson.

Both parties have until April 17 to respond to the charge.

Speaking after Sulley Muntari's penalty gave Pompey a shock victory at Old Trafford, Ferguson felt United had earlier had a blatant spot-kick denied when Cristiano Ronaldo was blocked by Sylvain Distin.

'It's absolutely ridiculous,' said Ferguson, whose side were denied the chance to repeat their 1999 treble success.

'I cannot explain it. Managers get sacked because of things like that and he's going to referee a game next week.'

He added: 'He (Hackett) is not doing his job properly and he needs to be assessed.

'I'm assessed as a manager, players are assessed, referees should be assessed properly by the right people. That performance today should not be accepted by our game.'

Evra preaches caution

Patrice Evra insists United cannot bank on a place in the Champions League semi-finals, despite establishing a healthy advantage over Roma in Tuesday's quarter-final, first leg.

A 2-0 away win makes the Reds favourites to book a semi-final berth against either Barcelona or Schalke, but Evra insists there is still plenty of work to be done in next week’s second leg.

“We’re very happy with that performance but there’s still a second game to think about,” the defender told MUTV. “In football you never know but we’re very satisfied with our position.

“I think the team played very well and we did a very professional job. It’s now important we stay professional and hopefully we’ll get through to the semi-final.”

United registered a valuable clean sheet despite the loss of Nemanja Vidic through injury, and Evra felt the display of substitute John O’Shea underlined the Reds’ strength in depth.

“It was important to keep a clean sheet and we did our job. We have a big squad and John O’Shea showed how strong it is when he came on and filled in for Nemanja. We have confidence in whoever plays.”

Rooney hails solid backline

Wayne Rooney may have helped put the Reds' in the driving seat in their Champions League quarter-final tie, but the striker was quick to heap praise on United's backline after the 2-0 victory in Rome.

Despite the loss of Nemanja Vidic through injury just after the half-hour, the defence stood firm as they recorded their 23rd clean sheet in 37 games and their fifth on the trot.

"The defence was brilliant and all season they've been the same so hopefully that will continue," Rooney told

"I thought we defended well as a team. It was important to try to keep a clean sheet and then hopefully nick a goal and we did that just before half-time and it put us in a good position in the second half.

"We knew Roma would come out and attack us and it created a bit of space for us. We had the two counterattacks and made them count."

Cristiano Ronaldo put the visitors in front on 39 minutes, before Rooney fired his third goal in two games six minutes after the hour-mark.

The result leaves United in pole position to qualify for the semi-finals, but Rooney insists they won't be taking anything for granted in next Wednesday's second leg at Old Trafford.

"It was a good professional job to come here and play well and it gives us a good platform for next week," he insisited.

"But with the Champions League you never know what can happen so we'll have to go out focused and with a good attitude. If we do that hopefully we'll see the second leg through.

Roma 0 United 2

Any lingering doubts about Cristiano Ronaldo’s label as the world’s greatest footballer were comfortably dispelled last night. The one criticism held against him was that on the really big occasions he can go missing. Well, in the Stadio Olimpico he reduced Roma to ruins. His goal and all-round performance have all but put Manchester United into the semi-finals of the Champions League. But it was not all about Ronaldo. It was about Alex Ferguson’s new, young team coming of age in what is the toughest of global club competitions. This was one of the club’s greatest-ever performances away from home in Europe.
Neil Custis, The Sun