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Monday 24 July 2017

Wayne Rooney now stands among the Manchester United greats - Michael Carrick

Michael Carrick, pictured right, and Wayne Rooney, left, have been Manchester United team-mates since 2006
Michael Carrick, pictured right, and Wayne Rooney, left, have been Manchester United team-mates since 2006

Michael Carrick has hailed Wayne Rooney's "sensational achievement" in becoming Manchester United's all-time highest scorer and has no doubt the captain can be held in the same high esteem as Sir Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best.

Rooney moved clear of Charlton at the top of the club's scoring list when he notched his 250th goal for the club with a superb stoppage-time free-kick in Saturday's 1-1 Premier League draw at Stoke.

That has prompted plenty of praise for the 31-year-old, who also surpassed Charlton as England's record scorer in 2015.

And Red Devils midfielder Carrick has paid his own tribute to a team-mate he feels has regularly hushed the critics who have followed him over the years.

Carrick, Rooney's long-time colleague at club and international level, told told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme: "It is a sensational achievement.

"To be the record goalscorer for United, and for England, is something you cannot take lightly, and he fully deserves it.

"To play at the level he has done for so long, you can't underestimate how tough it is to play so many games and have that scrutiny and spotlight on you constantly.

"He has dealt with that and answered back and shut people up over the years when they have questioned him, and he is still going strong today. To be so successful is not easy to do."

When asked about Rooney in comparison to the likes of Charlton, Law and Best, Carrick said: "They are all legends and icons in their own right, not just for United but for football in general, and Wayne is right up there with the very best of them

"I wouldn't like to say who is the better one, because they have all achieved major things.

"But for Wayne to get the record for club and country of goalscoring, and so many caps for England and playing so many times for United, it is an incredible achievement and something he should be proud of."

Rooney's stunning goal came right at the death of what had been a frustrating match for United at the bet365 Stadium, with the visitors falling behind in the 19th minute to a Juan Mata own-goal.

Jose Mourinho's men bossed possession and had numerous chances to score, but were unable to make the most of them due to their own profligacy and solid play at the back by Stoke, with substitute Rooney's late intervention subsequently bailing them out.

Mourinho stressed he would be targeting the Premier League title this season when he took charge of United last summer, but they are currently way off the pace in sixth place.

When asked if the title race was still alive for United, Carrick said: "It is alive. We are a way off now, but we can never give up.

"We are always fighting right to the very end - that's the only way we know.

"Anything can happen. There can be twists and turns. It is up to us to just focus on ourselves."

United remain in the EFL Cup and FA Cup, and Carrick added: "We have different competitions to play for, so we have plenty to play for and hopefully we can still win things this year."

Just prior to kick-off on Saturday, Stoke's new signing from West Brom, Saido Berahino, was on the pitch being presented to the home fans.

The 23-year-old forward has not played a first-team match since September, with Albion boss Tony Pulis expressing concerns about his fitness, but Potters manager Mark Hughes is confident Berahino will soon have a positive impact at his new club.

Hughes said: "He is not where he needs to be at the moment in terms of his fitness, but we can change that around very quickly and he gives us something we have not really had for quite some time - someone who will play off the shoulder and, if he gets a chance, more often than not will take it.

"He is probably not going to be starting games any time soon but certainly he can have an impact.

"He has played games in the last month or so for the Under-23s - clearly that is not Premier League level, but he has had about four sets of 90 minutes in the last month, so he is not unfit.

"He's not match fit, but I think once he gets back into a senior group and is integrated and has a little bit of understanding of what we're about, then he's going to progress very quickly on all levels."

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