Ruthless Rooney hopes Portugal fail to make World Cup

England striker Wayne Rooney has said he hopes former Manchester United team mate Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal fail to qualify for next year's World Cup in South Africa.

"It would be nice to see Portugal not there because, in the last two tournaments (World Cup 2006, Euro 2004), they've knocked us out," British newspapers quoted him as saying on Friday before England's penultimate World Cup qualifier in Ukraine.

"When we didn't qualify for Euro 2008, we (the United players) got a lot of stick (from Ronaldo)."

England have already qualified for the finals in South Africa while Portugal are third in Group One and must win both their remaining matches against Hungary and Malta while hoping Sweden drop points to reach the playoffs.

Rooney was sent off against Portugal in the 2006 World Cup quarter-final for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho in a match that triggered a media backlash against Ronaldo.

The Portuguese forward had suggested to the referee that Rooney should be sent off and was then seen to wink at his bench when the official did so.

Rooney said he had no doubt that he deserved to be sent off and made clear there were no hard feelings towards Ronaldo, saying the Portuguese had only improved since his move to Real Madrid.

"I've watched his first few games for Real Madrid and he seems to have improved again," he said. "He's passing the ball a lot more as well. Cristiano is definitely the best player around."