Last updated : 29 December 2006 By Ed

From his column in today's Daily Mail:

Boo Cristiano Ronaldo if you must, but surely it's also time to appreciate the qualities of this powerhouse of a player.

It would be foolish to ask for supporters to stop taunting him, because they won't, but perhaps it's worth remembering that the last Manchester United player to emerge from a World Cup with a battered image was David Beckham, who began the 1999 season as public enemy No1 and finished it with a treble.

Such success is not beyond Ronaldo and his rampant Manchester United team-mates.

The top scorers' list for the Premiership has three United players in the leading group, with Ronaldo their highest scorer with 10 League goals and 12 in all competitions. While Chelsea are relying on the goals of the ferocious Didier Drogba, Ronaldo is carrying the fight to them from the red corner.

Even when United had a poor day at West Ham recently, Ronaldo must have created five or six chances for himself. Currently, he is overshadowing Wayne Rooney at Old Trafford and there is no sign of World Cup fatigue from the flying winger.

The only World Cup hangover is from opposition supporters, who want to blame him for England's exit from Germany and his part in Rooney's red card. It's time to get over it.

How do opponents stop him? He comes at you with such force, such pace. Kick him? He's too strong for that. Believe me, at 6ft 1in he is fast and direct and strong too.

We are used to producing nippy little wingers in this country, who have pace but can be bullied out of a game. Not Ronaldo.

He used to overcomplicate his game. Why beat a player once when you can try and beat him again and again? His dancing runs and step-overs used to frustrate his team-mates, because they wanted an early ball into the box.

Now he has simplified his approach. He will still mesmerise a full-back, but he can create openings for team-mates and his goal record shows that he can finish too. It is a developing part of his game. In his first season in England, he scored six goals; in his second season, he scored nine goals, but didn't score his first until December.

Last season, he scored 12 goals. Now he has a dozen already and, having been set a target of 15 by his manager, the dressing room is now urging him to emulate the 20-plus goals scored from midfield by Frank Lampard last season.

With Rooney and Louis Saha weighing in too, you can see why there is such confidence about United. Like Ronaldo, they have a bit of a swagger about them going into 2007.

Booing Ronaldo hasn't had an adverse effect on the player. He looks to be inspired by it. He has cleaned up his diving too. He used to go over too quickly, especially for a big, strong lad, but now he is staying on his feet and has learned there are more ways to hurt the opposition than tumbling over.

Sir Alex Ferguson once told me that Ronaldo would become the best player in the world. At the age of 22, he is already on his way to becoming the best player in the Premiership.

After Eric Cantona, Henry, Zola, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Dennis Bergkamp and Paolo Di Canio, to name just a handful of the great foreign entertainers, we have another. Let's celebrate that.