Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo had been teammates at Manchester United for two years when they faced off against each other in the 2006 World Cup.
That quarter-final clash between England and Portugal created headlines all over the world. Two of the world’s most exciting young players, Rooney and Ronaldo, were pitted against each other.
The major talking point in that game occurred in the 62nd minute when Rooney received a straight red card for a challenge on Ricardo Carvalho.
However, it was Ronaldo’s reaction to the incident that caught the attention of the millions of viewers. Rooney told his side of the story is his 2012 autobiography ‘My Decade In The Premier League.’
“The mad thing is, Ronaldo and I aren’t supposed to be getting on. The papers decide we’re not going to work together because of an incident that happened during the World Cup.
“In England’s quarter-final against Portugal, I got tangled up with their defender, Ricardo Carvalho, and accidentally stuck a boot on him. It looked bad but actually it was a total accident.
“As I protested my innocence, Ronnie started waving an imaginary card around, getting in the ref’s face. The official pulled out the red and I was off.
“An early bath.
Ronaldo’s contribution to getting Rooney sent off created waves back in England. The former Everton star knew there would be repercussions from the media and fans were they were reunited in Manchester.
Meeting in the tunnel
Rooney insists that he did not blame Ronaldo for his role in the match.
In fact, he maintains that he showed no ill will towards his United teammate when they met in the tunnel.
Instead, he wished him well in the tournament. However, Rooney emphasised that the pair would have to keep their heads down and work as normal upon their preseason return.
“All hell broke loose.”
“When I walked to the tunnel, I knew I couldn’t really blame Ronaldo for what had happened because he was trying to win the game for this country. Besides, in the first half, I’d tried to get him booked for diving, so I was as bad as him really.
“But moments after my card, Ronaldo started winking at the sidelines, and to people watching the game on the telly. It looked bad, like he was dead pleased about it.
“All hell broke loose. Everyone immediately decided that Ronaldo and I were the best of enemies and his wink would spell trouble for United in the coming months. I knew what was in store. So, when I bumped into him in the tunnel after the game, I gave him a heads up.
“‘The fans will be going mad over this one’, I said. ‘They’ll be trying to make a big deal of it so we’ll just have to get on with things as normal because there will be talk all summer.’
Reaction on return to Manchester
As Rooney predicted, the media continued to cause a stir when United returned for preseason. Rumours spread that the duo were not on speaking terms and that Ronaldo was considering leaving the club.
While their teammates lapped up the stories, Rooney insists that there was absolutely no basis to them.
“Not long afterwards the papers reckoned he was off to Real Madrid; apparently me and him weren’t talking, which was absolute rubbish.
“The United lads loved the drama.”
“The truth is, I like Ronaldo, always have done. He’s a good lad, he’s great to have around the dressing room. The manager knew we’d be fine together. He didn’t sit us down for a pep talk when we arrived for the first day back at preseason. There was no need. He understood it would be business as usual.
“The United lads loved the drama though. Everyone gave us stick in the dressing room and when we turned up for the first session back at the club someone had even brought in a pair of boxing gloves as if the pair of us were going to have a scrap before we warmed up for the morning.
“But after our first practice game together everything was as right as rain: Ronnie looked sharp and we were playing well together, everyone was. I could tell that we were going to have a cracking season.”
Once again, Rooney was proved right. Alex Ferguson’s men finished first in the Premier League and reached the final of the FA Cup. In Europe, they made an appearance in the semi-final of the Champions League, losing out to Milan.
Rooney noted that Ronaldo came back from the World Cup with extra drive and extra energy. He noted that the Portuguese star was scoring goals “for fun”. That trend continued throughout the season, not just for Ronaldo, but for Rooney too. The duo finished as the club’s top scorers in all competition that year, registering 23 goals each.