Bilic hails Wayne Rooney as the “best” English player

Slaven Bilic has hailed Wayne Rooney as the “best” English player he has ever seen, and hopes the Manchester United striker remains on the sidelines for their upcoming FA Cup clash.

West Ham face United in the semi-finals of the competition on Wednesday, bidding to claim their first final berth since the infamous penalty shoot-out defeat to Liverpool in 2006.

England captain Rooney has been sidelined since the 2-1 away defeat to Sunderland in April, however, he made an appearance for the under-21 side on Monday as part of his rehabilitation.

Bilic has huge respect for United’s centre forward but says he does not want to see Rooney make a surprise comeback against the Hammers.

“I’m a massive Rooney fan since he stepped on to the pitch in an Everton shirt,” Bilic told reporters.

“I can’t talk about Jimmy Greaves or Bobby Charlton or Bobby Moore, but in my era Rooney is the best English player.

“I would rather he didn’t play tomorrow night. 70 per cent, 100 per cent fit, I would rather he watched the game.”

The Croatian manager believes his side are the more likely of the two sides to progress to the Wembley showdown and revealed he often receives betting odds from club co-owner David Sullivan.

“The chairman emails me sometimes the odds and basically very few times were we favourites, every away game, no matter who we play we are underdogs,” said Bilic.

“At home we are slight favourites, but when it comes to Man United I don’t know. I don’t gamble so I don’t know a lot about it.

“For me it is easy to say it is not important who is favourites because it is a game of football but I can say ‘yes, tomorrow night I expect us to win and I think we have a good chance to beat them’.”

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