Rarely has a player divided opinion as much as Wayne Rooney. The all time leading goal scorer for both England and Manchester United, is one of the most gifted players of his generation but for a lot of his career has had to deal with terrible criticism from the press and fans alike.
The boy from Crotxeth left Everton a talented yet impetuous teenager, joining Manchester United in 2004. Since then he has gone on to win it all at Old Trafford. Five Premier League Titles, three League cups, one Champions League Title, one World Club Cup title, and one FA cup. Rooney has achieved Legendary status in Manchester, and was one of the most important players during the clubs most successful eras.
Wayne Rooney has often been criticised heavily on the international stage for not being able to lead England to their first major trophy since the success in ’66. But ask yourself this: has anyone apart from the two players from another planet (Ronaldo and Messi) had to deal with the scrutiny Rooney has? Rooney shot to prominence towards the end of England’s golden generation. When Lampard, Gerrard, Terry, and Ferdinand were in their primes Rooney was coming through the ranks, so when Wayne was at his best it was towards the end of England’s golden generation, he didn’t have another world class player around him, he had to do it all on his own. The pressure of a nation was on his shoulders.
We shouldn’t judge Rooney on the player he never became, we should acknowledge the brilliant one he did, a player you could depend on when the pressure was on, the player who would step up for Manchester United and deliver brilliant moment after brilliant moment. His thirteen fantastic years will not be forgotten, and its hard for me to pick my 3 favourite Wayne Rooney moments in a red shirt, but here they are:
1) Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United: Champions League consolation
It may seem odd starting with a loss, but my favourite Wayne Rooney moment comes in a loss, albeit to the best club team to ever play the game. Pep Guardiola’s juggernaut team, which included Ballon D’Or holder at the time Lionel Messi, being supplied by Xavi and Iniesta in their primes, the Barca ‘Tiki-Taka’ was a dream to watch, but a nightmare to play against.
Barcelona were heavy favourites for the game after seeing off Real Madrid in the semis, and in the final they led early through Pedro’s goal. Manchester United were being thoroughly out played by the superior team. Step forward Wayne Rooney, from little danger in the Barca half Rooney created a beautiful goal. After a throw in he played a one two with Ryan Giggs, and slotted cooly passed Valdes into the top corner. The adulation of every fan in the stadium was incredible and for a brief time it looked as if United could upset this monstrous team. United would go on to lose to a Messi inspired team, but a moment of brilliance from Wayne Rooney made it respectable for United.
2) Stoke 1-1 Manchester United 2017: Rooney becomes Manchester United’s all time top scorer.
What a moment! After missing chance after chance in this game, it looked as if United would walk away from the Bet 365 Stadium with nothing, for the second season running. However in the 94th minute the captain led by example curling a wonderful free kick past Lee Grant, to score his 250th goal for Manchester United, eclipsing Sir Bobby Charlton. It was a testament to the footballer that Wayne Rooney is, that after he scored this goal he didn’t run off celebrating he went and ran for the ball because he wanted a winner, the sign of a true champion.
3) Blackburn 1-1 Manchester United: Red Devils win a record 19th league title.
Having had a controversial season where he handed in a transfer request to leave United, it looked as if Rooney would leave, Manchester City were even said to have had an interest. After crisis talks with Fergie he penned a five year deal and became an important part of the team joining Berbatov and Chicarito to lead the line for United. In May 2011 United had the chance to win the title away at Blackburn but made life hard for themselves going a goal behind. United only needing a point threw everything at Blackburn and on the 73rd minute were awarded a penalty. Rooney slotted home and United held on. For an Evertonian to knock Liverpool off their perch, must have been an incredible feeling.
There have been countless other Rooney moments to that fans have enjoyed over the years, his last minute winner vs AC Milan in 2007 or his 2011 overhead kick in the Derby to name a couple, but these were my favourite in a red shirt. Rooney now follows in the footsteps of cult heroes Juan Roman Riquelme and Fernando Torres as players to return to their boyhood club, it would be a fairytale ending to an incredible career if Rooney has success at Everton, who said romance was dead in football?
Featured image credit: Sky Sports