From boy genius to pantomime villain to club Legend. The Wayne Rooney story.
Wayne Rooney. Just saying the name unleashes a torrent of emotion in pundits and fans alike. Having carried the burden of all the hopes and expectations of the United and England faithful on his shoulders for so many years whilst wading through an ocean of criticism, he is at a point in his career where his abilities are waning. With the hounds baying for blood, let’s look at the remarkable journey that Rooney has had so far and try to plot where he goes from here.
Rooney burst onto the scene as teenager, when he was snapped up by Manchester United for an astounding £30 million from Everton on deadline day in the summer of 2004. He had a sparkling debut, scoring a hattrick against Fenerbahce in the Champions League.
He went from strength to strength from there, going on to become United’s highest goal scorer in the Premier League that season. He also went on to secure the PFA Youth Player of the Season award that year.
The footballing world knew it had witnessed one of the greatest attackers that would ever grace the game in the making. Rooney was an energetic, creative player, who didn’t shun away from the physical side of the game. He was also surprisingly good in the air for someone not very tall.
However, there was the issue with his volatile temperament. The sarcastic clapping at the official against Villareal, and elbowing Pepe in the face epitomized the fiery brand of football that Wayne bought to the table. Sir Alex at the time stated that he hoped that that facet of Wayne Rooney would evaporate as he matured as a footballer.
For the next couple seasons, Wayne blew hot and cold. He would have scoreless streaks, then come on to produce some great football. A broken metatarsal and some ankle injuries didn’t help his cause either.
Then, along came a certain celebrated young Portuguese footballer called Cristiano Ronaldo. The telepathic connection that Rooney and Ronaldo had allowed them to produce some magical football. The duo decimated defences and led United to multiple league titles and the all-important Champions League win against Chelsea.
Rooney’s best football however, came in the 2009–10 season. With Ronaldo and Tevez leaving the club, Rooney took on the mantle and scored a personal best of 34 goals that season. He ended up winning both the FWA and PFA player of the season awards that year.
It was at this point that things started to go downhill for Rooney. Details of his ‘escapades’ with a hooker revealed. He went to South Africa for the World Cup despite not being fully fit. Needless to say, he flopped there and for a while on his return to Old Trafford. All this culminated in an emotional breakdown that left Rooney shattered.
Make no mistake, Rooney is no white knight. He refused to sign a new contract at this juncture, citing that Manchester United didn’t have enough ambition. However, for reasons unknown, he did a quick U-turn and signed a bumper five-year contract. This incident ruffled quite a lot of feathers with the United faithful. The fact that he had held the club at gunpoint saw Rooney’s stock with United fans drop.
In the Manchester Derby in the February of 2011, Rooney produced one of the most iconic moments of his footballing career. With the scores tied 1–1, Rooney struck an overhead kick in the 78th minute, which won the game for United and left viewers across the world in a tizzy. Sir Alex described it as the best goal Old Trafford had ever witnessed.
Controversy continued to engulf Rooney, with photographs of a rowdy night in Manchester with his mates emerging in tabloids across England. Issues pertaining to sharing the limelight with Van Persie emerged as well, with Sir Alex forced to have drawn out discussions to allay Rooney’s fears.
Toward the end of the 2012–13 season, with Sir Alex retiring from management, news emerged that Wayne Rooney had handed in a transfer request. With PSG, Real Madrid and Chelsea interested, it appeared that United would lose their star front man.
However, David Moyes, the new man at the helm, announced that Rooney was not for sale. Rooney ended up signing another five-year contract that will keep him at Old Trafford until 2019. The season ended with United’s worst ever league finish and the dismissal of David Moyes.
Next came the Iron Tulip. Under the reign of Louis Van Gaal, Wayne Rooney was made the captain of Manchester United. Following Gerrard’s retirement, he was made the skipper of the Three Lions as well. Under LvG, Rooney often played the role of a holding midfielder. He used his vision and passing ability to pull the strings from midfield.
It was under LvG that Rooney reinvented himself as a player. He had clearly lost his pace on the ball and as a result, the ability to run at defenders. He adapted himself beautifully to the role of a holding midfielder, playing long balls out from the center of the park and controlling the play to the best of his ability.
In the 2016–17 season, despite only getting a bit-part role under Jose Mourinho, Rooney certainly did achieve some personal milestones. The amazing freekick against Stoke took his tally to 250 goals, making him the highest goal scorer in Manchester United history. He also went on to become England’s highest goal scorer as well.
Despite Mourinho stating that Rooney is a key man and that he would love for him to stay for another season, it is evident that Rooney will be looking at much lesser first team football than he previously had. With Gareth Southgate also ousting Rooney from the England Squad, Rooney’s career seems to be in a rut.
Despite the current situation, it would be foolish to write Wayne Rooney off. He is a man who has won it all. While he is at a low point in his career, it is not beyond the capabilities of someone with so much raw technical ability to bounce back and produce some fantastic football, the likes of which we have seen over the years.
With the Chinese Super League, the MLS and boyhood club Everton touted as possible destinations, it will be interesting to see where Wayne Rooney goes from here. Will he be looking for one final payday or will he stay at United and fight for his place in the eleven?
As a United fan myself, I sure do hope that Wazza stays with us for a little while longer. “I saw my mate the other day, He said to me he saw the white Pele, So I asked, who is he? He goes by the name of Wayne Rooney, Wayne Rooney, Wayne Rooney, He goes by the name of Wayne Rooney…” Hopefully, this chant rings around the stadium for a little while longer, and the ‘white Pele’ rolls back the clock and produces some more magical moments for the footballing world to cherish.