Grp C: Benfica vs Man Utd Preview

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has echoed the club's fans by labelling Wayne Rooney the white Pele.

His hat-trick is complete....

It has been sung by the Stretford End for a few years now, in recognition of the 25-year-old's status as a player of special talent.

And, in responding to an observation from Benfica coach Jorge Jesus that Rooney is "more Brazilian or Argentinian" than English in the way he plays the game ahead of Wednesday night's Champions League encounter with United at the Stadium of Light, Ferguson made his own comparison.

"Look at Pele," said Ferguson. "He was a very aggressive attacker as well who could look after himself. So can Rooney. There are similarities that way in strength, speed and determination.

"But he is white, completely white."

In fact, Ferguson thinks of Rooney as the very best of British, boasting the same desire, work ethic and talent as United legends of old.

"Wayne is a typical British player. But there have been British players who have great qualities that made them great players.

"(Paul) Gascoigne, George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law.

"The similarities are that the boy has great courage. He wants to play all the time. He has incredible stamina. These are added extras to the talent he has."

That talent has been on show to great effect so far this season, as Rooney has scored eight times in four Premier League games, leaving him just three adrift of his tally from last year.

Jesus has been watching the England striker closely. And he is adamant Rooney has no peer in his native land.

"Rooney is the best British player so far," he said.

"But he plays like an Argentinian or Brazilian. He can decide a match in the last third of the field. We will have to pay great attention to him tomorrow [Wednesday]."

Jesus has not completely ruled out the chances of Benfica improving on a record of one win in seven attempts against United.

However, he has dismissed the possibility of last year's runners-up not finishing in the top two, meaning the battle for qualification is between three teams, Benfica, Basle and Romanian debutants Otelul Galati.

"It is going to be very close," he said.

"Manchester United are the clear favourites but I think it will be a fight to the end for the other teams."



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