Irish rocker Bono is thrilled he escaped "rock star retirement" to re-launch U2 as the best band in the world - because it proved all his critics wrong.

The crusading musician admits the band was written off in the nineties after experimental dance cross-over album POP, but he refused to relinquish his dream of world domination.

And five years after re-launching U2 as a serious musical force, he is delighted to have silenced dissenters with his hard work and being named the top touring earner of 2005.

He says, "We did all the things we weren't supposed to do, to reconnect with the audience. We pressed flesh, we did the photos, we did the circuit, and we sort of came back even though we hadn't really gone anywhere.

"There were those who thought - hoped - that we'd blown it with the Pop album and the Popmart tour. They thought we were off to the fish farm in Wales, the rock star retirement, or the Betty Ford Clinic, the nostalgia shows, isn't that what's supposed to happen?

"We succeeded, and they hated us for that."