Wayne Rooney is bemused by the criticism levelled at him by former Manchester United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, Sky Sports News understands.
In a bombshell interview with TalkTV, published by The Sun, Ronaldo took aim at former United colleague Rooney after he warned the Portuguese forward last week that he is becoming an “unwanted distraction” at Old Trafford.
Asked about Rooney’s criticism, Ronaldo said: “I don’t understand, you should ask this question to him. I don’t know why he criticised me so bad.
Asked if it is jealously, he added: “Probably, because he finished his career in his 30s. I’m still playing at a high level, I’m not going to say that I’m looking better than him, which is true. It’s hard to listen to that kind of criticism and negativity from people who played with you, for example Gary Neville as well.
“People can have their own opinion but they don’t really know what’s going on inside the training ground at Carrington or even my life. They should listen to not only one point of view, they have to listen to my point of view as well. It’s easy to criticise but if you don’t know the whole story, it’s easy.
“They are not my friends.
“It’s easy to criticise, I don’t know if they have a job in television that they must criticise to be more famous. I really don’t understand it.
“I think they take advantage of [my name] because they are not stupid.
“I have to carry on my life with criticism. It’s hard when you see people who were in the dressing room with you criticise in that way. I’m not going to sleep badly because of the criticism but it’s not good to listen to that.”
Rooney has decided not to make a public statement on the matter.
It is understood England’s all-time leading goal scorer has always maintained that Ronaldo is one of the two best players in the world – alongside Lionel Messi.
But he also feels that the 37-year-old needs to accept he is in the latter stages of his career, and being a player at a club the size of Manchester United, means respecting the situation and not expecting to play every minute of every game.
Sky Sports News has been told that Rooney feels no animosity towards Ronaldo.
Ronaldo’s comments come after Rooney said Ronaldo’s acts of petulance have been unacceptable this season and would not have been allowed to stand in dressing rooms they shared.
Ronaldo refused to come on as a substitute and stormed down the tunnel before the completion of United’s 2-0 victory over Tottenham in October, leading manager Erik ten Hag to drop him for one game.
Asked whether Manchester United were better with Ronaldo in the team, Rooney told talkSPORT: “No, I don’t think so. Him and Messi are arguably the two best players of all time and you can go either way with that, whatever way you decide.
“But I just think the things he has done from the start of the season; it is not acceptable for Manchester United. I’ve seen Roy Keane defending him. Roy wouldn’t accept that. Roy wouldn’t accept that at all. It is a distraction which Manchester United don’t need at the minute, when they are trying to rebuild.
“For Cristiano, just get your head down and work and be ready to play when the manager needs you. If he does that, he will be an asset. If he doesn’t, it will become an unwanted distraction.”
Rangnick responds to Ronaldo criticism
In his explosive interview, Ronaldo also criticised the appointment of former United interim boss Ralf Rangnick.
He said: “If you’re not even a coach, how are you going to be the boss of Manchester United? I’d never even heard of him.”
Rangnick, who took charge at Old Trafford in November last year after the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, is currently Austria’s national team coach.
Asked at an Austria news conference about Ronaldo’s comments, the 64-year-old replied: “I’m the team boss of Austria’s national team, it’s not my job to judge that. It’s the job of Manchester United and the sports journalists there.”
Manchester United players are disappointed with the way Ronaldo has behaved, but they want to focus on football and not get involved in off-the-pitch issues.
The Portugal captain criticised the club and manager Erik ten Hag, who the player says he has “no respect” for.
On Monday evening more footage from the interview was released, with Ronaldo claiming members of the United hierarchy doubted him when he said he could not attend pre-season because his daughter was ill in hospital.
Ronaldo has now joined up with the Portugal squad ahead of the World Cup and was given a frosty reception by his United team-mate Bruno Fernandes following the interview.
Meanwhile, United’s lawyers will keep studying comments Ronaldo has made as and when they are released and all options will be considered.
The forward said he feels “betrayed” by Manchester United for trying to force him out of the club, with Ronaldo claiming United have made “zero progress” since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
United responded to the interview on Monday with the following statement: “Manchester United notes the media coverage regarding an interview by Cristiano Ronaldo.
“The club will consider its response after the full facts have been established.
“Our focus remains on preparing for the second half of the season and continuing the momentum, belief and togetherness being built among the players, manager, staff, and fans.”
Senior figures at the club are holding talks about how to deal with the player.
The club only found out about the interview as they were preparing to fly back from London on Sunday evening following their 2-1 win over Fulham and they do not understand why he has said what he has said.
Ronaldo was told on Thursday that he would not be in the starting XI against Fulham but he would have been in the squad. He told the club he was ill.