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Idols: Wayne Rooney; from a Scouse prodigy to a Mancunian legend

Having myself been born in 1997 and first becoming a football fan around the age of seven, my memories of being a Manchester United fan have predominantly been rather enjoyable ones following the Sir Alex Ferguson era, in which the Red Devils dominated English football. During a time when winning the league was such a regular occurrence that it soon became an expectation and not a desire, United fans were also blessed with being able to witness some great players grace the Old Trafford field. The club has held some true iconic figures, not just for United’s own history book but also for the game itself, with notorious names such as George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo have all worn the red and white of Manchester United.

Whilst also having the pleasure of witnessing quality players, some mentioned above, there will always be that one name that stands out from the crowd and that is no other than Wayne Rooney. Although the Englishman now actually seems to split the United fan base in half, with some still cherishing his name and others wishing him to leave, Rooney has arguably been Manchester United’s greatest player of the twenty-first century.

What did he mean to fans?

During the years 2004 to around 2013, the name Wayne Rooney was plastered on the back of the majority of United fan’s shirts. The Englishman was absolutely idolised by fans for his desire and passion that he showed on the football pitch with his skills and style of play also being emulated by kids on parks and fields across the country. Absolutely everybody knew about Wayne Rooney. Although recognised through different traits, Rooney was arguably just as big a star as David Beckham as through Nike adverts and performances on the field, Rooney became a little bit of a national treasure.

As mentioned, those fans that adored Rooney did so because of his consistency of being able to operate at such a high level of intensity week in week out, as the Englishman was certainly one to wear his heart on his sleeve. The utilisation of Wayne Rooney in his iconic number 10 role, just behind the striker, saw him become the driving force behind the whole team as being the complete player that he was, Rooney enjoyed to drift across all areas of the field and excelled in both his offensive and defensive duties. It could be argued that Rooney himself revolutionised this position, one that soon became known as ‘The Wayne Rooney role.’ Although not being blessed with a natural style of elegant dribbling, Rooney’s intelligence on the field allowed him to dictate games through his quick intersection of play in which he both created chances for his teammates, whilst also clinically putting many chances away.

It is also no coincidence that during the years that Wayne Rooney excelled in this position, Manchester United dominated English football. Whilst in this time players came and left, Rooney remained at the heart of the team and flourished no matter who was selected around him. Even with the inclusion of high-quality players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Ji-Sung Park, Luis Nani, Dimitar Berbatov etc, Rooney’s position up until 2013 stayed engraved into the Old Trafford field. The Englishman’s overflowing trophy cabinet that consists of five Premier League medals, one FA Cup, three League Cups, one UEFA Europa League medal, a FIFA Club World Cup and of course one UEFA Champions League is certainly complimentary of the players that United possessed, but also highlights the significance of Rooney himself. Although I could list the rest of this page with Rooney’s individual awards, the success that the teams he operated in speak the loudest volumes in proving just how effective Rooney was.

Iconic Moments

In a career that spans from 2004 to of course the present, choosing Wayne Rooney’s most iconic moments in a red shirt is no doubt a large-scale task, as the Englishman has enjoyed endless successful moments with the club. However, below I have listed my top four moments that personally stand out to me as a fan.

28th September 2004; Debut Delight

Following his explosive breakthrough at Everton, Rooney became the world’s most expensive teenager when United snapped him up for a hefty £30m. With some of the press criticising his price tag, all eyes were on the 18-year-old when he stepped out for his United debut against Fenerbache in the Champions League, oh boy did he deliver.

After a quick 11 minute double, scoring two ice cool finishes and celebrating with his iconic sliding past the Old Trafford faithful on his knees, Rooney completed his hat-trick with a fantastic free-kick into the top left-hand corner. His performance certainly outlaid the legacy Rooney was set to create at United, with Sir Alex Ferguson stating after the game, “I don’t suppose I have seen a debut like it. What you saw tonight is the reason why we signed him.”

12th February 2011; The Manchester Derby’s greatest ever goal?

It could be argued that to become a true Manchester United legend, you have to at least once in your career put one over our noisy neighbours. It is fair to say that throughout his career Rooney has enjoyed numerous derby occasions, as he is, of course, the top scorer in the Manchester Derby’s history. However, there will always be that one goal that stands out.

The 2-1 victory over City back in February 2011 was no doubt a significant one in United’s route to their 19th title, but the game will forever be remembered for arguably Rooney’s greatest ever goal. With 12 minutes left and the game poised at 1-1, Nani’s deflected cross swung in just outside the six-yard box where Rooney was able to shift his body and shock the whole stadium with an acrobatic overhead kick, that nestled into the top right-hand corner.

14th May 2011; Knocking the scousers off their perch

When Sir Alex Ferguson arrived at United, he promised to knock the scousers off their perch as Liverpool held the record for the most League titles in England, in which they held 18. How fitting it then was for a Liverpool-born player to be the one to break this record.

In a game where United only needed a point at Ewood Park to secure their record-breaking 19th title, the Reds were trailing a goal behind, so, up step Wayne Rooney. When Paul Robinson gave away a penalty for the Reds in the 73rd minute, one couldn’t imagine the nerves and pressure that Rooney was feeling when he placed the ball down on the spot. However, as always, the Englishman confidently tucked the ball into the left corner and thus crowned United champions on a historic day.

21st January 2017; Record Breaker

When Wayne Rooney scored a hat-trick on his debut for Manchester United at just 18, you must wonder how many people speculated putting a bet on the Englishman to one day become their all-time record goalscorer. Although the 16/17 season wasn’t necessarily the most productive for Rooney himself, it is a season that will always be remembered in the history books of the club.

With United being 1-0 behind to Stoke back in January this year, United looked destined to be leaving the Britannia with no points, but of course, up step Wayne Rooney again. In a season where he had been chasing the record for it seemed so long, an outrageous 93rd-minute free-kick to rescue a point was the way Rooney established the illustrious record as his own.

Although admittedly, Wayne Rooney has declined in terms of his ability to affect games on the football field in the way he once did, fans will always remember the Englishman for being one of the club’s all-time great servants. Whether he stays or goes this given summer, Rooney will no doubt be leaving behind a great legacy at the club and one that will not be easy to ever replace.

Written by Joshua Gmerek-Iftakhar

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