MANCHESTER - Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson hailed the contribution of Wayne Rooney before the Champions League match against VfL Wolfsburg on Wednesday, five years on from the striker's stunning debut.
Rooney scored a magnificent hat-trick against Turkish side Fenerbahce in 2004, sending Old Trafford into raptures and truly announcing himself on the world stage at the age of 18.
"It was a marvellous start, to score a hat-trick on your debut and he wasn't really fit," Ferguson told a news conference on Tuesday.
"He hadn't played for about 10 weeks or something which was a remarkable feat and his progress has never at any point disappointed us.
"When we signed him as a young kid, we thought, exactly as we do today, that he would become a really top player and he's going in that direction without question."
Ferguson outlined Rooney's desire to win and refusal to give in as his key attributes before the visit of the Bundesliga champions, who came from nowhere to beat the likes of Bayern Munich, Hamburg and Stuttgart to the German title.
"He's blessed with certain ingredients that only great footballers have," Ferguson said.
"It's the determination and hunger to win every match, every time he goes on the field, every training session.
"He's blessed with that and it'll never change for him."
Ferguson said Rooney could one day overtake former Manchester United player Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player in the world.
"We sometimes wonder with the criticism about what footballers get paid but when you see that effort he puts in, he's worth every penny he's paid because he plays as if he means it and it's a wonderful thing to have," Ferguson said.
"There are some great footballers out there like Kaka, Ronaldo and Messi.
"They're the three best players in the world and Wayne could easily get to that level with the right progress."
Wolfsburg beat CSKA Moscow in their opening Group B match and United came away from Besiktas with a 1-0 win.
"Wolfsburg probably are the main dangers to qualifying," said Ferguson who is bidding to take United to their third Champions League final in a row.
"I think it's a measure of where they are and we admire that that their approach reflects our approach to the game too. It may turn into a very open game."
United midfielder Ji-sung Park will miss the game with a virus but Patrice Evra (illness) and Michael Owen (groin) are both expected to be involved.comments