As the first snippets of Cristiano Ronaldo's explosive interview with Piers Morgan were released earlier this week, the battle lines were drawn. There were a number of targets that the Manchester United striker targeted in his tirade. Among those he pursued were the club's manager Erik ten Hag, former interim manager Ralf Rangnick, and the club's owners, the Glazers. However, there was one name among those on the list that seemed more incongruous than the others; Wayne Rooney, an ex-teammate. As for Ronaldo's criticism of the current DC United manager, the Portuguese captain said, "I don't know why he criticizes me so harshly." Rooney has retired from playing, while Ronaldo is still active at age 38. It did not take long for the Ronaldo vs Rooney debate to be thrown into the modern-day colosseum of social media. Responses were diverse.

It is no surprise that the usually impartial contingent whose bios simply state that "Cristiano Ronaldo is my GOAT" has sided with the Portuguese. Those who are more experienced United fans, or those who have grown tired of Ronaldo's performative histrionics, tended to place their trust in Rooney. Assuming the debate was being held about who was a superior player, then Ronaldo is without a doubt the winner every time. Among his peers are Lionel Messi, Pele, Diego Maradona, and Johan Cruyff. Aside from the former Real Madrid player, there are a few others who deserve to be included in this discussion. However, if the question is who is the greater United legend, Ronaldo's followers are incorrect. CR7 was no match for Rooney's contribution to the Red Devils.

In the history of Manchester United, Ronaldo is without a doubt the greatest player to pull on the jersey. Ronaldo, however, did not spend his peak years at clubs like Rooney, Cantona, Best, Charlton, Scholes, or Beckham. After winning the Ballon d'Or and the Champions League with Sporting CP, the former player sought out arguably loftier heights with Real Madrid. Ronaldo played his best at the Bernabeu, not Old Trafford. Ronaldo's glory days were spent at Real Madrid, but Rooney's were spent at United. It was at Everton that he received his first knockings, where Clive Tyldesley insisted that we "remember his name". United was Rooney's big move in the same way Los Blancos was for Ronaldo.

Rooney's finest work was performed at the Theatre of Dreams. During that match, he bicycled into the history books by defeating Manchester City. His record as the club's top goalscorer remains unbroken. A total of five Premier League titles were won by him during his tenure at the club. As captain, he would be responsible for leading the team. Imagine Ronaldo wearing white. Imagine Rooney wearing a red shirt. It will be pointed out that those who disagree with this view will point to the fact that Rooney submitted a transfer request in an attempt to facilitate a transfer to Manchester City. In an attempt to undermine their credibility, some Ronaldo hardcore has asserted that their idol would never act in a similar manner. It should be noted that he submitted a transfer request this past summer and also tried to move to City before United swooped in the summer of 2021. Both men have never played for United's rivals.

It is absurd to judge one as superior to the other on this particular topic. This depends on what they did on the pitch in the famous red, white, and black uniforms. At the height of their careers, both players were considered among the best the club has ever produced. There is, however, only one winner when it comes to legendary status at Old Trafford. The last three seasons of Ronaldo's first United tenure were the pinnacle of his career. Numerous triumphs were achieved with his help. However, Rooney's work was more enduring. Red Devils' history is synonymous with one man, their top scorer, and a player who spanned eras. From the finest days of the Ferguson era to the turbulent years that followed, Rooney remained a constant throughout. Despite the fact that Ronaldo was playing better football than the Croxteth lad, he was doing it in Spain. Rooney will always be viewed as the supreme player at Manchester United.

By Rashmi Goel

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