Hodgson sees value in ace Rooney

Real president Florentino Perez is “obsessed” with Rooney according

to the club’s former president Ramon Calderon, despite the fact

neither Manchester United nor their star man have given any

indication a transfer is possible. And after taking his tally for

the season to 32 with the first two goals in a 3-0 win over the

Cottagers at Old Trafford that took United back to the Premier

League summit, Hodgson could only join the chorus of praise. “Wayne

Rooney is proving he is among the best in the world every week,”

said Hodgson. “He is scoring lots of goals in a tough league like

ours. He is starring for England and is starring in the Champions

League. “Anyone doing that is a player who will be talked about and

someone everyone else is going to be coveting. It is no surprise

people are coveting Wayne Rooney. “It is pointless for me to say

Wayne Rooney is an excellent player because you could get that from

the man in the pub. “I just know we don’t have that kind of money.”

At the moment, Rooney is driving United towards an unprecedented

fourth successive title. After a goalless first half, the former

Everton star took just 29 seconds to break the deadlock, converting

Nani’s return pass in clinical fashion. With Brede Hangeland forced

off with a chest injury suffered in a first half collision with

Antonio Valencia, the hosts then spurned a succession of chances,

and survived a scare when Bobby Zamora found himself clean through,

before Rooney settled frayed nerves when he tucked home Dimitar

Berbatov’s cutback. Berbatov rounded off victory near the end,

although all the focus was on Rooney, who is now just 10 behind

Cristiano Ronaldo’s staggering total from two years ago that helped

crown him world player of the year. Not that Rooney is the type to

welcome any comparisons. “If I am being honest, getting to 42 goals

wouldn’t mean a lot to me,” he said. “It is not something I have

looked at. “Obviously it is nice to score goals. I want to score

goals in every game and what Cristiano Ronaldo achieved was

unbelievable. “But I am a different player and a different person.

I am not comparing myself to Cristiano.” United are now two points

ahead of Chelsea – who have a game in hand – and Arsenal, with

eight games remaining, starting with next week’s

eagerly-anticipated visit of Liverpool, and including the visit of

Carlo Ancelotti’s men on April 3. But Sir Alex Ferguson is not

expecting anything to be decided yet. “At the moment it is looking

like the tightest Premier League we have had,” said the United

chief. “It is very tight. We only have eight games left. Chelsea

have nine. We are all involved in Europe. Chelsea also have the FA

Cup. “I suppose the simple way for us and Chelsea to look at it is

just to win all our games. But life is never that simple.”

Apparently, though, it is exactly that simple for Berbatov, who

endured a frustrating afternoon in front of goal prior to his own

effort, even though he was picked out as one of United’s star men

by Hodgson. “There can only be one winner and I think it is going

to be us,” said the £30.75million Bulgarian. “Arsenal and

Chelsea are great teams and we have difficult games ahead of us but

the good thing is we play at home at Old Trafford against Chelsea

and that will be an advantage for us. “I am optimistic that in the

end we will be champions.”