World Cup: Wayne Rooney ready to 'lead' England's young stars against San Marino

Rooney, with 76 caps, is regarded as one of the most experienced players in Roy Hodgson's squad and is in line to captain England in Friday's World Cup qualifier with San Marino. Steven Gerrard is suspended and Frank Lampard is struggling to overcome a knee injury.

The squad has now lost more experience following the retirement of John Terry and the Manchester United man accepts he has to be the one offering support and assistance, just as Cantona did at Old Trafford to the likes of Gary Neville and David Beckham.

"I remember Alex Ferguson telling me what a big help Cantona was to all those younger players at United.

"It is something I can try do for England and hopefully help bring the best out of them, as they can bring the best out of me."

As the post-Terry era begins, Rooney is happy to accept the Chelsea skipper's absence leaves a big hole for others to fill.

"He was fantastic for us" said Rooney. "JT is an old-fashioned centre-half, who is not afraid to get his foot in.

"Together with Paolo Maldini, he was one of the two toughest defenders I have played against

"He has made his decision to retire and we have to respect it. But he will be a loss to us."

"I don't try and get involved because you do get a bit of stick on it and obviously, I know everything I put on there is seen by everyone who follows you and it will be in the newspapers the next day, so I have to be careful.

"I didn't go on it to see how many followers I could get. But it is incredible the amount of support I get."

Cristiano Ronaldo has made the best goal scoring start of his career

.The Real Madrid forward has scored 14 goals in the 11 official games that he has played with Real Madrid

When Cristiano Ronaldo ended the 2011/12 season with 60 goals, it seemed unlikely that he would achieve such a remarkable feat in a very long time. Five months later, and after only 11 official games, the Portuguese is on course to break all the records he set last season. He has currently netted 14 times, which represents the best goal scoring start of his career, beating the 10 he scored at the beginning of the 2010/11 season.

Thus far this season, Real Madrid have played 11 games in 3 competitions. They have scored 25 goals in these games and 14 have been scored by Cristiano Ronaldo, or 56 %. The number 7 opened his account in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup, a tie in which he was the outstanding player as he scored another goal in the return leg. He didn’t score his first league goal until the third round of fixtures, but has since become the leading goal scorer in the team, netting 8 times. Lastly, goals have also come his way in the two Champions league games he has played, and he is now leading the way in the goal scoring charts with 4 goals.

In his previous 11 campaigns as a professional, Cristiano had never managed to score as many goals in the first 11 official games. His best start for either Sporting Lisbon or Manchester United was just 2 goals. Since he signed for Real Madrid, he has considerably improved on this figure. In 2009 and 2011 he scored 9 goals in 11 games, while in 2010, he scored 10, which was his best until this season. 




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Sporting Portugal



Andy Murray gets walkover into Shanghai Masters third

Andy Murray strolled into the third round of the Shanghai Masters without playing a game after the withdrawal of Florian Mayer.

The German cited a rib injury for his non-appearance in China on Wednesday.

Having already received a first-round bye, third-seeded Murray will face Gilles Simon or Alexandr Dolgopolov for a spot in the quarter-finals, while second seed Noval Djokovic eased through his round two match.

Murray, champion in China for the last two seasons, admitted earlier this week he was slowly adjusting to life as a Grand Slam winner.

The US Open champion told Sky Sports: "It's been more fun and I've felt less pressure to perform in every single match and tournament.

"I always felt I was trying to prove something and I'll just try to keep improving. The courts here are slower and the balls are faster so it takes a while to get used to that."

Serbia's Djokovic, desperate to get his world No 1 ranking back from Roger Federer, overcame Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 6-2.

Fourth seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic defeated Italian Andreas Seppi 6-3 6-3.

Tony Martin powered to an impressive victory on stage two at the Tour of Beijing

The German (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) attacked over the top of the final climb and held off his rivals for upwards on 20 kilometres to take the victory by 46 seconds on the chasing pack.

Seven riders gave chase following the second category ascent, Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) getting the best of the bunch sprint ahead of Eros Capecchi (Liquigas-Cannondale) into Mentougou.

A short, reduced-length stage saw attacking from the very start, with the race splitting to pieces on the opening first category climb.

That set the tone for the day with groups strewn across the parcours, Martin proving the strongest as he opened up a 50-second lead over Gavazzi.

Edvald Boasson Hagen retained fourth overall for Team Sky as he finished in the second chase group on the road.

After a straightforward opening criterium on day one, the introduction of more climbs had the desired effect as the race blew apart.

Kicking off at the Bird's Nest Stadium, scene of Tuesday's opening sprint finish, 126km lay in front of the riders as the race went in search of climbs.

Five riders combined to go clear early on, making up 3:15 on the bunch, yet surprisingly the gap plummeted as the race hit the first climb of the day.

The first category ascent split the peloton to pieces, a select group heading clear with Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Tony Martin the most prominent names to hit out and open up a gap.

With both Martin's reeled in the lead group were motivated to keep their gap to the group behind, Euskaltel-Euskadi and AG2R La Mondiale pushing the pace onwards to peg the margin at around the 1:30 mark.

Tony Martin attacked out of the darkness, plummeting down the descent to remain clear for his first non-time trial stage victory for two and a half years.

Verratti ready to make lasting impact with Italy

After swapping Pescara for Paris-Saint Germain FC, promising Italy midfielder Marco Verratti has gone from strength to strength and is poised to make his mark against Armenia on Friday.

Seasoned coach Zdeněk Zeman has forged a glowing reputation for bringing the best out of mercurial talent, but all too often players have left his side only to fade into obscurity. Italy prodigy Marco Verratti is something of an anomaly, however.

After leaving Pescara – who returned to Serie A under the stewardship of Zeman last term – the 19-year-old has made a seamless transition to life at Paris-Saint Germain FC, establishing himself as a fans' favourite. Verratti, who was handed his senior Italy debut by coach Cesare Prandelli against England in August, oozes patriotism and is eager to make his mark on the international stage. "At the moment I am focusing on the present. I am desperate to represent the national team even if that means I end up playing in goal," he said.

After collecting four points from their opening two FIFA World Cup Group B qualifiers against Bulgaria and Malta, Italy travel to Armenia on Friday and Prandelli is keen to find a place for Verratti in his team. "I think he can play alongside Pirlo, maybe slightly in front of him. They could even switch positions during the game," said the tactician." Verratti added: "I played a few games behind the striker at Pescara last season so I see myself as a versatile player. But, of course, I will play anywhere for Italy."