WAYNE ROONEY described his expulsion to the 2006 World Cup quarter-final as the “worst feeling” he has ever experienced in football – but did not blame Cristiano Ronaldo.
And incredibly, the hero of Old Trafford says that his moment of shame really brought him closer to himself and the Portuguese icon after clear-cut talks in the tunnel after the match.
Rooney received his marching orders to stamp Ricardo Carvalho
England faced Portugal in the Gelsenkirchen confrontation, feeling confident of advancing, but were trained on penalties and eliminated with their star striker sacked.
After 61 minutes of blocking, Rooney tangled with Ricardo Carvalho and struck the Chelsea defender, receiving his marching orders from referee Horacio Elizondo.
But much of the fury at home was focused on Manchester United striker teammate Ronaldo for protesting to the referee that Rooney had to walk and shortly after being seen to wink cheeky eye.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Rooney said, “The game was going well. Then, at the start of the second half, came my red card.
“It was a reaction to the referee who didn’t give me a free kick. There was a clear foul, former Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho pulled and pushed me and Petit came to the other side.
“Elizondo did nothing and I stepped on Carvalho – it’s one of those moments when you don’t think.
“I knew it was a red card and back in the locker room, I watched the rest of the match on a small TV, thinking:” If we win that, I’m suspended for a semi-final and a final World Cup and if we lose it’s my fault. It was the worst, strangest feeling I had in football.
“I had my phone in my hand and I received all these messages on Ronaldo. Of course, when he ran to ask Elizondo to send me, I pushed him away. At that time, I couldn’t believe what he was doing. But sitting in this locker room gave me time to calm down and think.
“I put myself in Ronaldo’s place. Would I do the same? Probably. Would I be in the face of the referee to make sure he was kicked out? If he deserved red, if that would help us win – yes, no doubt. I would do it tomorrow.
The next three years have been our best as a partnership and have brought three titles and the Champions League. ”
Rooney on Ronaldo
“I thought, ‘Actually, I tried to get it booked in the first half for diving.’ And in the blink of an eye, I saw nothing at all. It was nothing. So I calmed down. “
Rooney, 34, admits enormous tension and frustration around the tournament.
Fighting with the press over the presence of family members in Germany and a secret groin injury contributed to a bad World Cup for the player, who rushed from a broken metatarsal to reach the competition.
And, with all of that after a 3-1 loss on penalties, he put his “united head” to clean the air with Ronaldo.
Rooney wrote, “I went to him after in the tunnel. I felt it was important to talk to him while he was still fresh and to face him face to face. He gave me a look as if to say sorry, but by then I had my head together.
“I said I had no problem with you. Enjoy your tournament and good luck. I’ll see you in a few weeks – and let’s try to win the league.
He added, “The press has been trying to drag all summer, saying that we have problems, but we have none. In the first game of the new season, we beat Fulham 5-1. I scored two points and prepared him for one and that all calmed down.
“In the locker room, we were always very close. It was always the two of us who pranked the manager or the other players. And what happened brought us closer to the field.
“The next three years have been our best as a partnership and have brought three titles and the Champions League. My red card in Gelsenkirchen was the starting point. “
Ronaldo was taunted throughout the next Premier League campaign, but nonetheless finished as the Red Devils’ top scorer on the way to the title.
But the return to England after the World Cup was a worrisome experience for the winger, who feared he would be castigated for his role in the quarterfinals.
He told Goalhanger in 2018: “The media has created a great drama that has never existed. So when I got back to England, I was a little scared, not because of Rooney but because of the supporters of England.
“They made a huge story when I winked, but it wasn’t because of the circumstances with Rooney, it was another situation.
“It was a difficult time for me because I thought that when I got to Manchester, people would boo at me at all stages.
“But it is the past, I chatted with Rooney when I returned to Manchester. We are still friends, we talk about it and he understands my point of view.
“Of course, he helped me in all circumstances. He said, “Cristiano, it’s the past, let’s talk about the present, let’s win trophies together”. “