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Ronaldo's goal more than just goals

Cristiano Ronaldo insists he should not be judged by how many goals he scores as Manchester United prepare to take on West Ham at Old Trafford.

An ankle operation before this season began has meant Ronaldo has yet to rediscover the devastating form that saw him score 42 goals to help United to the Champions League and Premier League titles last term.

The 23-year-old winger has managed three goals since returning to action in mid-September. But while he would welcome a repeat of last season's achievements, Ronaldo is adamant his contribution should not be measured simply by how many times he puts the ball in the back of the net.

"I am an ambitious player. I try to improve every season. I know last year was magnificent. I played really well, I scored so many goals and we won major trophies," said the Portugal winger.

"It is possible this season. But my priority is not only to score goals. I don't have to do that. I just have to play well for the team.

"I want to do the same as last season. I don't need to prove anything to anyone. I just want to keep proving to myself that I am a good player."

Despite being denied a pre-season move to Real Madrid, Ronaldo maintains anyone claiming his body language shows he is unhappy is wide of the mark.

"If I smile it is because I smile. If I don't, it's because I don't. People are always writing things about me.

"It is up to them; for me it is not a problem. I will just try to play well and do my best. I am just focused on playing good football."

Rio Ferdinand has revealed that Ronaldo's desire to win even stretches to table tennis and believes his hunger is key to the forward's success.

"He wants to learn and be the best in whatever he does, even in table tennis against me! You need that. "All the top players have a winning mentality. They want to do well all the time, even in training. Last season and the season before he was faultless.

"He had an end product and was doing things other people cannot do."

United are seven points adrift of the leaders Liverpool after their 1-1 draw at Everton ended a run of six straight victories in all competitions.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side have played just three league games at Old Trafford all season and French defender Patrice Evra has targeted the back-to-back home fixtures against West Ham and Hull City as an opportunity to make-up ground in the title race.

"You need to win every game when you play for United and it's important that we move on after losing two points at Everton.

"We have two games at home and we need six points."

Gianfranco Zola's Hammers head to Old Trafford on a miserable run of four defeats in their last five matches after last weekend's 2-0 loss to Arsenal.

They will be without Carlton Cole (suspension) and Mark Noble (injury) but Lucas Neill and Valon Behrami could both face the champions.

Meanwhile Hammers striker Craig Bellamy insists he is just happy to be playing after a succession of injuries that have limited him to just nine Premier League starts since he arrived at Upton Park in the summer of 2007.

"I am disappointed we lost to Arsenal but it is nice to be able to look forward to another game against Manchester United on Wednesday."

Zola feels West Ham will play their way out of their current problems, the former Chelsea and Italy forward saying: "I don't think we are playing badly.

"I think there are some parts where we are playing well and we are going to improve. I have faith in that."

MANCHESTER, England, Tuesday, AFP



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