In 2021 the opinion that Wayne Rooney is a Manchester United legend is not controversial, with most United fans seemingly agreeing that the now 36-year-old manager of Derby County is a legend of the club. The main reasoning behind this being that he is now United’s top goal scorer of all time, taking over Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 249 goals after scoring his 250th goal in a 1-1 draw with Stoke City on the 21 January 2017, as reported by ESPN.
As reported by Sky Sports, Rooney managed this achievement within over 200 games less than Sir Bobby played, landing Rooney in the United record books for the foreseeable future.
For many people of a similar age, Wayne Rooney is one of the key reasons they fell in love with United, with Cristiano Ronaldo leaving the club for Real Madrid in 2009, Rooney became the poster boy for United, leading many to idolise him and view him at that time as one of the best in the world, quite often mentioned in this era in the same breath as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, it was not long until controversy started to surround the striker, with rumours of him wanting to leave the club in 2010 being confirmed by Sir Alex Ferguson, quickly followed by a statement from Rooney’s team, stating the reasons behind his intended exit were not monetary but instead due to a perceived lack of ambition by the club to want to win trophies, as reported by The Guardian.
Nevertheless, even after the striker’s U-turn in signing a five-year contract, the fact he wanted to force an exit out of their club stayed with United fans and is a key reason why he is disrespected when it comes to his legend status.
It is not Wayne Rooney’s status of legend that is up for debate, but more so where he sits in the pantheon of other United legends in which he, compared to the others, may engender less respect.
For a player who is currently United and England’s top goal scorer, lifted every trophy possible for United, and stayed with the club during one of its most turbulent periods in the post-Ferguson era as club captain, it is safe to say he quite often does not receive the respect a player who has achieved so much for one club usually generates, not just from United fans, but Football fans as a collective.
Perhaps the reason behind this is due to the controversy of 2010 and his public disagreement with Sir Alex Ferguson, or maybe because he was a product of Everton’s academy and not United’s unlike other legends such as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and David Beckham.
However, it must be noted that when Rooney announced his departure from United in 2017, both the club and its fans showed a huge amount of love for the striker, as was reported by The Mirror. This public outpouring shows that overtime, the wounds of the past had healed over, and United fans had come adore Rooney, most likely due to the fact that he stuck with the club during the tenures of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal and gave his all for the club during this time.
Football fans, however, seemingly still do not appreciate Rooney for the player he was, talk of never fulfilling his potential often the key point of debate when his name is mentioned alongside all time footballing greats.
Manchester Evening News stated that after his performance in Euro 2004; ‘it would not be an exaggeration to say Rooney looked like he could go on to become only the fifth Englishman to win the Ballon d’Or’, proving that even after all he has achieved in the game, he is still spoken about in terms of what he has not achieved, such as winning a Ballon d’Or.
Perhaps Wayne Rooney will always be the most misunderstood legend that United has due to his lack of personal accolades and perceived wasted potential, or maybe history will be kind to the striker, and as time goes on, fans of football will come realise just how special a player he was in his career.
Those few United fans who still do not appreciate him, will come to realise just how lucky United were to have a selfless player like Rooney at their club in his prime. Perhaps Premier League legend Thierry Henry summarised the striker best when he stated; ‘You will only truly appreciate Rooney when he has retired.’
Written by Jennifer McCord