Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has drawn similarities between Wayne Rooney and Brazilian legend Pele.
Rooney has begun the season in stunning form for United, scoring consecutive hat-tricks against Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers, to add to his double for England against Bulgaria in their recent Euro 2012 qualifier.
United will again look to the 25-year-old to lead their bid to reach a fourth Champions League final in five years, a campaign which begins on Wednesday night against Benfica, and according to Ferguson the club have a player in the mould of one of the sport's greatest ever.
"If you look at Pele, for instance, he was a very aggressive attacker also who could look after himself – so can Rooney," he said. "They have similarities that way in terms of strength, speed, determination."
“I think Wayne’s a typical British player,” he added. “But there have been British players over the years who’ve had similar qualities that make them great players, whether it’s Paul Gascoigne, George Best, Bobby Charlton or Denis Law.
“The similarities are that the boy has great courage, he wants to play all the time and he has incredible stamina. These are added extras to the talent he has.
“Wayne has shown great maturity in his game, that’s what happens when you reach your mid-20s. You get more authority in game, your timing becomes better and your understanding becomes better.”
With eight goals in four matches already this season, Rooney looks set to match his tally of 34 for United in the 2009/10 season. But Ferguson says it should't be the main target for the England international.
“I’m sure it’s a target for him," he added.
"I don’t think that matters for him at the moment though. I’m sure he doesn’t go out at the start of the season thinking that way.
"But as the season progresses like it did two years ago, when the target was to get over 30, he reached it very quickly and ended the season with 34 goals.
"If that’s the target this season and he gets to that, then I’ll be absolutely delighted because with Chicharito’s [Javier Hernández] ability to score, we could have two goalscorers above 25."