Many Manchester United fans, myself included, have regarded Wayne Rooney as a club legend for several years now. Well, his place amongst the legends in now undisputable because he is the club’s all time leading goal scorer. It was nice that the goal to break the record at Stoke was a stunning last minute free kick that was actually worth something. With his obvious decline over the past few years, you felt like he would limp over the line with either meaningless goals in the Europa League or easy finishes against lower league opposition in one of the cups.
The goal against Stoke was only his second in the league all season and he will be lucky to get two more in the rest of the campaign. With how bad he’s been over the past few seasons, it’s easy to forget how good he was in his first 10 years at the club. He is a legend in every sense of the word and he will probably only be appreciated in 20 years when fans have had enough time to forget about his decline.
The Early Decline
It’s really remarkable how young Rooney was when he started to decline. He was our best outfield player during the David Moyes debacle and I would still regard that as a very good season for him with 19 goals and a similar number of assists. If you’re in a generous mood, you would still say that Rooney was at the top of his game in the 13/14 season, especially when you consider he was playing for a useless manager (David Moyes) and half of his team mates had given up and didn’t bother trying.
There’s no denying though that when Van Gaal became manager, the rather rapid decline began. He was just 28 when Van Gaal walked through the door. While he was noticeably worse and stuck in an obvious decline under Van Gaal, especially in the first half of last season when he was utterly dreadful, it’s hard to know how much of that is down to Wayne himself and the awful brand of football that Van Gaal played which could go games on end without producing more than one shot on target.
What we’re left with now though is a 31 year old Rooney and he looks like a 40 year old. While most footballers start their decline at 31, Rooney is pretty much at rock bottom. He can’t get in the team, fans don’t want to see him in the starting line up anymore and it is widely accepted that his best days are well and truly behind him.
Now that he’s got the record, there’s constant talk of a summer move to either China or the USA for a fat pay cheque. The sad thing is, I hope he goes in the summer. I don’t want the club to auction him off to the highest bidder, just give him away so he can choose his preferred destination and I think the club will do the right thing in this regard.
It’s time for Martial, Rashford, Pogba and (hopefully) the incoming Griezmann to be given a real chance to spear head United’s future without Rooney getting in the way. For 10 years, Rooney was good enough to be a leading figure in a title challenging side. Those days are gone and it’s time for a clean break for all parties.
Today, Rooney has the odd moment of the old brilliance in him, as we saw at Stoke, but those moments are few and far between. As he gets older, it’s likely that he will continue on this downward trajectory and rather than being a permanent feature on the bench, he would be better off elsewhere and United would be better off giving young blood his place, not to mention the obscene wages he’s on.
Did He Fulfil His Potential?
A common accusation that fans throw at Rooney is that he didn’t reach his full potential. I think a big reason for this is because of the heights that Ronaldo has gone on to reach and Rooney was the better of the two in 2005 and 2006. This isn’t really a fair comparison though because Ronaldo has gone on to reach stratospheric levels, a level that only a handful of players have reached in the history of the game.
I could go on for days about why Rooney did in fact reach his potential but it is best summed up like this: he is the leading goal scorer for both England and Manchester United, breaking a record that stood for 40 years. Many great players had their shot at both these records and were not able to reach them, Wayne Rooney did. Of course he reached his potential.
My Favourite Rooney Moments
Most people talk about the overhead goal vs City or the Newcastle goal, both of which were fantastic, but I’ve seen them so much that I’ve become numb to their brilliance. One of my favourite Rooney moments was his hat-trick vs West Ham in 2011. At the beginning of the 10/11 season he was awful, there were allegations in the press about his private life, there was the transfer request and the conflicting stories about his injuries. In the calendar year of 2011 he was fantastic and his hat trick vs West Ham will always be one of my favourites. 2-0 down at half time, Rooney steps up with a fantastic second half hat-trick which helped us on the way to the title.
Another of my favourites was his goal against Everton at Goodison Park at the end of the 06/07 season, Rooney’s first Premier League winning season. Again, 2-0 down at half time, United come back to win 2-4 with Rooney scoring the third. This was a pivotal win as we won the league for the first time since 2003. Something else I loved about this goal was the way he celebrated in front of the Everton fans.
Here are two YouTube with some of his best goals. This first one is 10 of his best goals for United, complete with English commentary. These wouldn’t be my best 10 Rooney goals but then again, choosing just 10 would be very difficult because he’s scored so many great goals.
This next one is called 50 best goals for Manchester United which is misleading because in this video there’s a mix of United, England and even his Everton goal against Arsenal. On top of that, there’s annoying music in the background and the picture itself has been shaved as is so often the case with these YouTube goal compilations. Despite the overall poor quality, many of his best goals can be found in this video.
So far, I haven’t found a YouTube video with all 250 of his United goals although I’m sure plenty of them will crop up over the next few months. MUTV have a show running which contains all 250 of his goals which I’ve watched. The only problem is that the commentary on the majority of his goals (and all of them from the last 6 years or so) is from the MUTV commentators and I can’t help but preferring the BBC, Sky, BT, Setanta and whoever else has broadcast United games since Rooney signed.
If he does go in the summer, I will naturally be very sad about it, even though I realise it’s for the best, both for himself and the club. He’s a once in a generation talent and as a Manchester United fan, I’ve been very lucky to have watched him in a United shirt on so many occasions and it will be sad when it inevitably comes to an end, regardless of how poor he’s been over the past couple of seasons.