Back-slapping all around

While Chelsea defender WILLIAM GALLAS praised manager Jose Mourinho to the skies, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson almost drooled over striker Wayne Rooney, writes BRIAN LEE.

If Michael Ballack needs any more persuasion that his future lies at Chelsea he should listen to the Blues defender William Gallas.

Germany captain Ballack, out of contract at Bayern Munich at the end of the season, is weighing up his next move and manager Jose Mourinho has confirmed his desire to pair him with Frank Lampard in the Blues engine room.

It was Gallas' wonder goal that earned three points against London rivals Tottenham recently and after riotous scenes of celebration erupted with Mourinho on the edge of the pitch, the defender was quick to stress that the Chelsea family is a big happy one.

"That's Mourinho. He is doing a good job and we want to win everything for him. We want to win the Premier League. We want to win the FA Cup and I hope next season we will win everything," said the Frenchman. "Some people like him, some people don't but he's a good manager and we are all behind him."

The International Federation of Football History and Statistics agree with Gallas' assessment and recently named the `Special One' the best coach in the world for the second successive year.

But the man himself said: "I find that it is a prize with enormous credibility because it is based on statistics and not just the opinion of people. In 2005, I won a championship, an English cup and reached the final stages of the Champions League — obviously I am happy with all this, but I am ambitious and I want to win more. It is for that reason I can say that I do not feel like the best coach in the world."

The modesty and back-slapping was not confined to Stamford Bridge this week and Wayne Rooney had his Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson almost drooling.

Rooney's incredible two-goal display against Newcastle, which many believe to be the best he has produced since his GBP27million switch from Everton 18 months ago, condemned the Magpies to their first defeat since Glenn Roeder took temporary charge.

And Ferguson said: "It was a marvellous performance. He doesn't just take chances, he creates opportunities for himself with his marvellous skill and tenacity. That marks him out as a very special player."

Roeder could only agree, stating his belief the St James' Park outfit had been undone by a player who could eventually become the world's best. "Wayne Rooney cannot yet have come anywhere near fulfilling his potential," he said. "In three or four years, there is every chance he could be number one in the world. Together with Thierry Henry, he is my favourite Premier League striker. I just wish we had him."

With Rooney on board, Ferguson finally feels he is close to matching the striking competition that swept the Red Devils to their unprecedented 1999 treble triumph. Far from being fazed by a situation, which currently sees Ruud van Nistelrooy being limited to brief appearances from the substitutes bench, Ferguson could not be more delighted.

Van Nistelrooy's agonies may be easily observed and fuel talk of a summer move away from Old Trafford, but for Ferguson they are only the by-product of a situation which can only be healthy for the club. "We are fortunate with Wayne, Ruud, Louis Saha and young Giuseppe Rossi coming through, we are getting to the competition we have been looking for quite a while," he said.

"If you go back to 1999, we had four outstanding strikers and when I picked the side for each game, the two I left out were disappointed. Yet they were always ready to come on and do something. Competition is a healthy state for the football club to be in."

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