Football: 33, 34, 35, 36, 37.. I'M COMING TO GET YOU! BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE Goal King Ronaldo Targets Gunners MANCHESTER UNITED V ARSENAL OLD TRAFFORD, TOMORROW,4PM
Byline: BY DAVID McDONNELL
CRISTIANO RONALDO is adamant he has shown his critics he is a big-game player this season, and warned Arsenal he intends to prove it again at their expense tomorrow.
Despite his heroics this season, which has seen him plunder 37 goals from 41 games, there remain those who believe Ronaldo has yet to impose himself against topclass opposition.
Finding fault with Ronaldo is a bit like taking Tiger Woods to task over a wayward drive, such has been the brilliance of the peerless Manchester United winger.
But statistically, Ronaldo possesses a distinctly average record on the domestic front against United's major Premier League rivals Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.
While his speed and trickery are enough to bamboozle the Premier League's so-called lesser sides and plunder an avalanche of goals against them, he is less effective against the big three.
In 29 games against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, Ronaldo has scored in only three. And in 11 games against Chelsea, he has never managed to find the back of the net.
But on the eve of tomorrow's showdown, a crucial encounter in the context of the title race, Ronaldo claimed: "People say I need to perform better in big games and I respect that opinion but I don't feel I need to prove anything to anyone.
"I'm pleased with my progress and I'm happy with the improvement. I'm a better player now than I was a year ago and definitely better than when I first came here. I hope that continues."
Ronaldo has scored some spectacular goals this season, earning a reputation as the best free-kick taker in the world, with sublime long-range strikes against Portsmouth, Bolton and Sunderland.
The 23-year-old has broken George Best's record of 32 goals in a season by a United winger, and is aiming to become only the third player in the club's history to reach the 40 mark.
Denis Law scored 46 in the 1963-64 season, while Ruud van Nistelrooy managed 44 in 2002- 03. Ronaldo is just three short of reaching 40, but admitted he cannot pick a favourite goal.
"I enjoyed my header against Roma away," said Ronaldo. "That was very satisfying. But I like the free-kicks against Portsmouth, Bolton and Sunderland. It's hard to pick out one. I don't really want to break anybody's record - I feel bad. But I've seen tapes of George Best and he was absolutely fantastic. It's a wonderful record to hold.
"It's nice to be recognised, but if I had the choice of winning, say, the Champions League or the Golden Boot, I'd pick the Champions League every time."
Ronaldo, who yesterday collected another Barclays Player of the Month award, is favourite to scoop all the individual prizes at the end of the season, just as he did last year, but Sir Alex Ferguson claimed there was no chance of the winger believing his own hype. "I don't see any signs that all the attention is affecting him," said Fergie.
"Cristiano is sensible and intelligent enough to realise what football is about. Success can affect people, but the great quality is to keep your humility and keep your feet on the ground. …