The Red Devil’s new number seven discusses his chances of making the England squad next summer, and how he is fitting in at Old Trafford.
How is the injury?
The injury is fine, I just felt my groin going tight and if I’d kept on playing then I think I would’ve pulled it so I came off before I pulled up. So instead of being out for three or four weeks I’m only going to be out for three or four days. You listen to your body a bit more as you get older and more experienced!
When can we expect you back then?
I won’t make Saturday against Sunderland, but the game after that I’ll be fine.
How have your first couple of months at United gone?
I’ve loved it. It’s a cracking group of lads with a great team spirit so it’s pretty easy to fit in. The whole place is fantastic, the staff are top of the tree, whether it be medical, canteen or training staff, it’s everything you’d expect from one of the biggest teams in the world.
Do United do things very differently to other clubs you’ve been at?
I wouldn’t say very differently, it’s just of a higher quality. There are a lot of staff who contribute an awful lot, the facilities are fantastic. It’s not like there’s a magic formula that other teams don’t do, I just think it’s that everything is done to a higher level, that’d be the one thing I’d say.
How did the process of signing for United come about?
Everyone knew that I was coming to the end of my contract at Newcastle, so I was just beginning talks with quite a few clubs. Then Sir Alex Ferguson called me and it went from there really. He said he’d been monitoring the situation and that he’d like to meet me. So I met him the next day and it was all done straight away after that. I was surprised to get the call, but it was virtually wrapped up within hours.
What has been the reaction from the United fans?
It’s been great, though I must admit when I first signed it was one of the things I thought, what type of reaction will I get? But since then they’ve been absolutely fine, there’s been no problem whatsoever. It’s been great in fact. And then scoring in the Manchester derby, if there were any people on the outside who were still wondering what reception I’d get, that allayed everything because I’d like to think I’ve got a decent rapport with players, staff and fans now.
How did that goal rank with others you’ve scored?
Well for the pure excitement and adrenaline it was right up there, it was fabulous. The whole game was building to a fantastic climax and we’d taken the lead three times and they’d pegged us back, it was just a fantastic game even if it had finished 3-3. But for it to finish as it did, and with me managing to grab the winning goal, it certainly made me feel even more at home at my new club.
What goals and targets have you set yourself for the season?
I’m aware that at Manchester United one game or one good performance is pointless because you need to do it on a regular basis, and that’s the standard they’ve set themselves. So as soon as you have a great performance like we did against Manchester City, you’re quickly back down to earth because you’ve got a game days later and you’ve got to be focused again. But in terms of targets, staying fit, playing plenty of games, scoring a few goals and contributing to the success of the team. Those are the obvious ones but I don’t set any goal targets or things like that, I just want to contribute in my way.
Have you discovered Ryan Giggs’ secret of eternal life?
No but I’ll be asking him about it! Once I turn 30 and beyond I’ll be asking him for a few bits of advice. He’s a fantastic player, it doesn’t need me to tell everyone that. He’s an inspiration to all the young lads at the club and even for someone like me to see someone playing so well, it gives plenty of optimism about how long you can play for if you do the right things. He’s a world class player who has looked after himself over the years and he’s playing as well now as he has done for many a year I’d suggest.
How much does the World Cup this summer figure in your thoughts?
I’d love to go, I’ve played many times for my country and I’d love to play more. I suppose it all depends on form and fitness. I hope between now and the summer I can play a few games, play well and score a few goals and if that takes me there then great, and if it doesn’t, well I’ll still not have any regrets about my England career. I’ve had a good international career but hopefully it can continue.
What are England’s chances of winning it?
I think we’ve got a good chance, there are plenty of good teams out there. Probably Brazil and Spain stand out in my mind as the two favourites but apart from them I’d say we’re right up there after that. We must be one of the third or fourth favourites after that so I think we’ve got a good chance.
Which players in the Premier League and around the world do you particularly admire at the moment?
There are plenty of players around the world that I admire. Thierry Henry is fabulous, he was fantastic in the Premier League and he’s done really well. Obviously there’s Messi, Ronaldo at Madrid, Kaka, there’s talent all around the world, there’s so many to name. But I’d like to think we’ve got plenty in the Premier League too and in the national team, the likes of Rooney, Gerrard and Rio, players like that, they’re all world class players.
Have you taken any United players racing yet?
A few of them are interested in racing. Some of them own a horse or two, as a syndicate. We went to Kempton a few weeks ago, it didn’t run great but it’s running again tonight! A few of the lads are quite interested in horses so we like to have a day out if there are no matches.
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