Wayne Rooney has lots of records to his name. He is England’s highest international goalscorer. He is Manchester United’s all time highest goalscorer. He is the all-time 2nd highest goalscorer in the English Premier League. However, you will hardly find anyone who will tell you Wayne Rooney is one of the greatest footballers of our generation.
“The oddity of Wayne Rooney’s glittering 13-year Manchester United career is that he departs for Everton to only muted applause. Despite a record that features a glut of trophies and personal achievements a strong sense of “Ta-ra Wayne, it’s about time” prevails among supporters.” (The Guardian)
In his time at United, Rooney won five Premier League titles, the Champions League, the Europa League, the FA Cup, three League Cups, the Fifa Club World Cup, was twice PFA Young Footballer of the Year and voted the 2010 PFA and Football Writers Player of the Year.
Despite all that he had done at Manchester United, his departure wasn’t even a sad affair at United. His last appearance was as a late substitute in Stockholm during the Europa League final. As Rooney himself said later, he would much rather have preferred to have played his last game at home. In a recent interview with MUTV, he also said he would have loved to finish his career at United. Instead we saw him spend a lacklustre year at Everton and then move on to USA to play in the MLS.
I am one of many United fans who fell in love with the club as Rooney (or Wazza as we called him) tore it apart on the pitch. We watched as he was clearly second best to Cristiano Ronaldo, giving his best to the team. We watched as he kept being moved around the pitch, not being able to play in his favourite position, and still contributing to the team as best as he could. We watched as his teammates couldn’t keep up or left for greener pastures, and he kept filling their absences. We watched as his goal tally increased, slowly but steadily, and inevitably to claim record after record for himself. We watched as he gradually fell out of favour with managers, turning into a legend warming benches. We watched as he slowly fell down the pecking order, and was all but pushed out of the club unceremoniously, in a way not fitting for a legend of his stature.
Even though his United career finished off disappointingly, Gareth Southgate and the English FA did not let that happen with his international career. On Thursday the 15th of October, England played USA in an international friendly, where Wazza made a second half cameo. With the added objective of raising money for his charity, Rooney was also given the perfect send-off at Wembley. He was presented with a plaque for highest goalscorer by Harry Kane, who he then said he would look forward to one day giving back the award, when he would outscore him. It was a magical 30 minutes for Wayne, as the crowd got louder and egged him on every time the ball landed at his feet. It was reminiscent of a golden generation of English football, saying goodbye just as a future generation of brightly talented players look set to dazzle the stage. He broke down while addressing the team after the game. It really was the end of an era, and the last game he would play in England.
Wayne Rooney is one of the greatest players to wear an England shirt, and a Manchester United shirt. The fact that a lot of fans would not include him among the top 5 footballers to grace either team, is simply a testimony to how underappreciated he has been through a decade and half of professional football. To many, he is a footballer who never fulfilled his potential; to me, he is one of the greatest footballers to ever play for my team, and the player who led me to love the game.