Sir Alex Ferguson believes that Manchester United are feeling the benefit of Wayne Rooney "channeling" his will to win as he prepares for next week's Champions League final.
England forward Rooney, 23, has enjoyed his most consistent season since joining United from Everton in 2004 despite spending much of the campaign on the left wing.
Rooney, who is sure to be in the United team for the game against Barcelona in Rome on Wednesday, has pleased Ferguson with his high work-rate as well as his 17 goals this season.
And the United manager has also noted that Rooney is now able to keep the temper that so often got him into trouble earlier in his career in check.
Rooney was sent off for throwing the ball away in the 2-0 defeat at Fulham in March but Ferguson feels the England forward is now much more in control of his emotions.
Ferguson said: "It's the improvement you expect from young players with talent. There are certain attributes and the most important attribute is his fantastic hunger and desire.
"Of course, you have to channel that desire. Sometimes it exceeds the emotions, the anger at times.
"We hope that, and we're getting signs, the maturity is bringing along with it a real professionalism so he can combine that combustible nature he has with being controlled.
"We are seeing that now. He's far better now. He is such a winner. Every training session the poor referee gets absolutely murdered. Every ball and tackle that goes in is like a cup final for him."
Ferguson sees echoes of former United man Brian McClair, who was always happy to put in defensive work, in Rooney's current play.
And the United manager insists that Rooney can cope with taking on more responsibility on the pitch.
He added: "That is a sacrifice he is making. He is willing to sacrifice the part of the game every forward in the world wants to do, which is just attack.
"We have some players who are not able to do what Wayne does. He's got the stamina and resilience to keep doing that and still cause a threat to the other side when he attacks. He has done fantastically.
"McClair was exactly the same. I could say to him 'fill in at right back for 10 minutes' and he would do it, no matter where he was asked to go on the field. He would do anything, wherever you asked him to play."
Ferguson also feels that his team have never been better suited to European football.
The United manager concedes his side have been naive in the past but have now learned to take a more patient approach in the Champions League.
He said: "We won it 10 years ago and the next year we got battered on the counter-attack by Anderlecht and PSV. Teams had worked us out quite easily. We were a complete 4-4-2 team, relying on the wide players to do a lot of defending for us and attack.
"We got strung out in those games at their grounds, so we had to start thinking about playing three central midfielders to make sure we were not exposed like that again.
"So there were disappointments like that but as we've gone along there is a way you find about your own team that is suited to playing in Europe.
"I think with the kind of midfielders I have, the three helps us in European football. You keep the ball better and are far more patience and control of the situation than we used to have."