Manchester: Alex Ferguson tends to shun players with inflated egos. Just ask David Beckham.
But the veteran Manchester United manager can't stop lauding the sublime skills of the player who inherited Beckham's No. 7 shirt - Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese winger scored two more goals on Tuesday night to seal a 2-0 victory over Bolton and put United three points clear of Arsenal atop the Premier League.
After breaking the deadlock 10 minutes earlier, Ronaldo scored from a dipping free kick - his 33rd goal in all competitions to eclipse George Best's season-leading tally for a United winger in 1967/8.
"He's phenomenal," Ferguson said. "It speaks everything for the player. I don't think there is a winger in this world that can do that and that's the measure of the quality of the lad and his scoring ability."
The precision deliveries of Beckham are a distant and faded memory at Old Trafford thanks to Ronaldo, who joined from Sporting Lisbon in 2003 as Beckham left for Real Madrid following a falling out with Ferguson.
"Ronaldo's free kick was marvelous," Ferguson said.
"He does practice them, as we know, and he has a technique, but the practice thing is the most important aspect in terms of getting shots on target."
Gary Megson and the Bolton team were in awe of Ronaldo.
"It was genius from probably the best player in the world at the moment," the Trotters manager said.
"Everyone in the dressing room afterwards was talking about how he does it. We have seen him do it twice now and the truth is we just don't know how he does it."
Ronaldo was also handed the captaincy for the first time.
"Cristiano looks for that kind of responsibility, I think he's very comfortable with it," Ferguson said. "Not everyone wants to be captain to be honest with you, but he carries the mantle very well."
And it didn't overwhelm the 23-year-old Portugal international.
"It is always good to be captain at this massive club," said Ronaldo, who contemplated leaving after being blamed for a red card given to England striker and United teammate Wayne Rooney at the 2006 World Cup.
"It is an honour and a pleasure, but my responsibilities are still the same. I do not change my game or personality just because I am captain. It was a marvelous night for me."
If Ronaldo scores in each of United's remaining eight Premier League matches he can match Dennis Viollett's record of 32 league goals for United in 1959/60.
And if he sends United to the Champions League final and scores in the remaining five European ties, his season tally would be 46 - matching Denis Law's record in 1963/4.
Ferguson already believes he is equipped with the world's best player, but knows a European triumph is vital to cementing those credentials.
"I said last year he was the best player in the world, but he didn't win it because Kaka did," Ferguson said. "Quite rightly, when you've won the European Cup because that's the marking card for the great players.
"You hope Ronaldo this year is challenging for that by winning the European Cup for us."
Ferguson believes Ronaldo is the most fouled player in the Premier League, and he is furious at what he thinks are hard and bad challenges from frustrated defenders.
"I have nothing but admiration for the way he picks himself and keeps running at people," Ferguson said. "Time after time he is tackled unfairly and often opponents try to indicate that he has dived."
"Of course when Ronaldo is running at full speed sometimes it doesn't take much to knock him over, but the truth is that too many opponents don't know how to tackle properly, and to disguise their shortcomings, they accuse him of falling deliberately."
Ahead of Sunday's trip to Old Trafford, Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez suggested that Ferguson is playing mind games.
"Ferguson is talking about Ronaldo and he's clever, trying to do his job," Benitez said.
"But the referee has experience and I think it will be good ... I think it's important to protect players like Torres, Ronaldo and all players with quality."
Benitez also advocates disciplinary action even after the game.
"The skillful players must be protected, that's clear," he said.
"We need to help referees and I have always said the same: use the videos. It will then be easier for the referees because, after the game, if they haven't seen something and you then use the videos, the players will know there's a camera watching them."