Manchester United and Everton shared a goalless draw on Wednesday night in Wayne Rooney’s testimonial match, to celebrate his 12 years at Old Trafford and to raise some money for his charity, the Wayne Rooney Foundation.
It seems like it was just yesterday that Clive Tyldesley was bellowing out “Remember the name; Wayne Rooney!” on ITV after he scored a last minute winner for Everton against Arsenal in 2002, to end Arsenal’s 30-match unbeaten streak. Of course, we all remember the raw talent that graced the international stage in 2004, with Rooney scoring four goals in four games, resulting in his being named in UEFA’s Team of the Tournament, and as such, answering all of the England fans anxieties, declaring himself the saviour of English football, and if performances like that carried on, leading England to a World Cup or two.
But it hasn’t quite worked out like that.
Many people feel like Wayne Rooney is overrated due to the promise he shown during his earlier years and never quite living up to that hype and expectation. Others feel like he is underrated and people don’t appreciate what he was achieved, mainly at club level. Is this a fair assessment of Rooney as a player?
This notion that Rooney is overrated mainly stems from his failure to lead England to glory on the international stage. Since his breakout performance at Euro 2004, the burden has been on Rooney to deliver the goods for England, regardless of the fact, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry and other big names were playing alongside him at numerous tournaments. In recent years, many have called for Rooney to be dropped from the England squad altogether, saying that England ‘perform’ better without him, which is ironic considering England don’t perform, full stop.
However, I do see where this argument comes from. Rooney gave England fans something to be excited about in 2004. He was fearless, clinical, and took the game to the opposition, and since that tournament, Rooney has never been that figurehead that drags England to the next round. That’s not to say he doesn’t contribute at all, however. At the most recent World Cup in 2014, England scored a grand total of two goals; Rooney scored one and assisted the other, yet was on the receiving end of most of the abuse for England exiting at the group stage. As seen at domestic level, however, Rooney has always thrived when he has other superstars around him to ease the burden, such as Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United. The fact is at international level, no one has performed for England at the big tournaments so it is unfair to pin it all on Rooney, in my opinion. In addition, Rooney is England’s all-time top goalscorer, which is a remarkable achievement in itself, but for some is not enough.
Rio Ferdinand said Rooney was a better player than Cristiano Ronaldo when he first arrived at Old Trafford in August 2004, which speaks volumes about Rooney’s natural talent. However, perhaps the impression that Rooney is overrated may originate from the fact that Rooney has not propelled himself to the top of the footballing pyramid like Ronaldo has. Ronaldo has worked extremely hard to get to where he is today and many feel if Rooney had that sort of dedication he could be one of the all-time greats. It seems that regardless of what Rooney has achieved in his career, he will always be overrated for not bringing that World Cup home. Nevertheless, Lionel Messi has never won a major tournament with Argentina and until their recent Euro 2016 triumph, Cristiano Ronaldo hadn’t won a tournament with Portugal. Both have achieved tremendous success at club level, but neither of them is hounded for their ‘lack’ of international achievements, shall we say. Of course, Rooney isn’t in the same calibre as Messi and Ronaldo but it’s difficult to see why Rooney’s lack of international silverware means he’s overrated.
On the other hand, many may feel Rooney’s achievements may be under appreciated. At Manchester United, he was won the Premier League five times, the FA Cup, the Champions League, plus more. Individually he was won numerous trophies including, PFA Players’ Player of the Year, the Golden Boy Award, Premier League Player of the Season plus much more. Statistically, he is England’s all-time leading goal scorer and he is four goals away from equalling Sir Bobby Charlton’s goal scoring record as being United’s all-time leading goal scorer. The fact is, that when Wayne Rooney calls time on his career, his name will be in the history books, whether people like it or not.
The factor that lets Rooney down is that he peaked too early. His style of play was during his early years was just as if he was playing football with his mates on the streets. He chased down every ball, played through injuries, threw his body into situations that he could have held back from, and he didn’t look after himself and he has paid the price. The Wayne Rooney of 20/21 years of age should be the Wayne Rooney we see now- him at his peak. His endless stamina and enthusiasm seem to have deserted him, long ago in fact. He’s always been an all or nothing type of footballer.
It’s easy to forget how long ‘Wazza’ has been around. He’s played with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy, and Paul Scholes, to players such as Anthony Martial, and Robin van Persie, whilst seeing Manchester United legends such as Ole Gunnar Solksjaer retire from the game and eventually go into management. To put it into perspective, when Rooney signed for United, the first iPhone was only three years away. He has played with so many great players of Manchester United that it is hard to imagine him leaving, and for most fans, their recent memories of the club will no doubt include him.
For many people, Wayne Rooney’s career will be looked back on with a ‘what if’ question looming over it. That’s not to say he’s wasted his talent but some fans always expected more. For many football fans, not just Manchester United fans, his career will be looked back on as a successful one. He was a part of arguably Manchester United’s best season in recent times and literally created history when breaking the all-time goal scoring record for England, and will no doubt surpass the great Sir Bobby Charlton’s record for United this season. No doubt question marks will continue to emerge over his place amongst football’s elite and even amongst players from his generation, but at least he has his records to fall back on.
Written by Jonny Webb