Ferguson defends young stars after Sunderland draw

April 15, 2006

Sir Alex Ferguson has no doubt Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo will fulfil their immense potential despite last night's Old Trafford aberration.

The Manchester United boss claimed the young pair produced 'probably their worst performances of the season' in the stunning 0-0 draw with Sunderland which leaves the Red Devils requiring a miracle to overhaul Chelsea in the Premiership title chase.

Ferguson feels Rooney's display in particular makes a mockery of the enormous weight of expectation he is carrying ahead of England's World Cup campaign.

But, over the long-term, Ferguson is convinced he has two gems in his ranks.

'I would stake my life on Wayne and Cristiano becoming great players,' he said. 'They have potential and the point about potential is you do not fulfil it when you are 20 or 21.

'But people should remember they are only young. You have to expect inconsistency and tonight the pair of them produced probably their worst performances of the season.

'We are prepared to wait two or three years because we know what they will eventually become.

'But it just shows all this stuff about Wayne winning England the World Cup is the biggest load of nonsense I have ever heard in my life. He is only a kid and he still has a lot to learn.'

In fairness to Rooney, the effort was there, even if, for once, the end product was lacking.

Ronaldo was far more culpable, producing far too many flicks early in the contest, giving the air of a team who felt victory was assured before the game had even begun.

Instead, Ferguson's pre-match hope that his side would not only put Chelsea under increased pressure but cut their advantage in the goal difference stakes as well, bit the dust completely.

Keeper Kelvin Davis was the Black Cats' hero, pulling off a string of superb saves to deny Rooney, Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

The result was not enough to keep Sunderland in the top flight but, as they head back into the Football League, they at least have recovered some semblance of pride.

'I told the players beforehand to go out and apply themselves because it could be an important night in gaining some respect, not just from our fans but the country as a whole,' said temporary boss Kevin Ball, whose side entertain bitter local rivals Newcastle on Monday.

'But it is no good just doing it in one game. We have to do it on Monday and in all our remaining fixtures.'