“Oh my words! History! Wayne Rooney does it in style!” The commentator screamed as Old Trafford went into frenzy. “Sir Bobby Charlton’s record is gone,” he carried on. It was a remarkable moment for all Manchester United faithful in January this year when Rooney scored his 250th goal for the Red Devils from a free kick in extra time, becoming the highest goal scorer for the club.
In a fixture against Stoke City, that ended with 1-1 score on the board, the goal was perhaps the highlight of his previous two frustrating years at Manchester United. Throughout his career in England, Rooney had been a star. He became one of the most promising youngsters from the moment he started his career at Everton.
Recognising the talent, Sir Alex Ferguson brought the 18-year old for £25 million. In his first game – Champions League fixture against Fenerbache – the teenager announced himself on the big stage by scoring a hat-trick. He became PFA Young Player of the Year for two years straight after making his move to Old Trafford.
Becoming one of the primary attacking threats in the front, Rooney went on to win 11 trophies under Alex Ferguson. He was also named as FWA Footballer of the Year in 2009/10. The same year, he was listed as PFA Fans’ Player of the Year and was awarded the Club World Cup Golden Ball.
Between 2006 and 2012, Rooney enjoyed some of his best years. With his fast speed, stocky built and bullish style of play, Rooney used to outsmart defenders. He scored majority of his goals (145 out of 253) during the same time period.
Over the years, the 32-year old gave some of the most exciting moments in football history. His overhead bicycle kick against Manchester City in 2011 remains the most memorable moment of his Manchester United career for the fans and critics alike.
Since the arrival of Louis Van Gaal as a manager at the club in 2014, Rooney struggled to find a fixed position to play. Rotating between no. 10 and striker position, Rooney developed the habit of dropping down too deep on a number of occasions, making him a lesser threat in key-attacking areas.
Often, Van Gaal himself chose to employ Rooney in the mid-field position, because of his defending abilities. “Sometimes you have to make choices in your career and at the minute it’s probably better for me to play deeper. Certainly after that, for next season [midfield] is where I see myself playing,” Rooney said in an interview in March 2016.
With a considerable drop in his speed and goal scoring form under Van Gaal (20 goals in 60 Premiere League appearances between 2014-16), the new manager Jose Mourinho had a tough decision to make when he took over the reigns as Manchester United manager.
Already witnessing criticism over the years for his unfair treatment of senior players throughout his managerial career, Mourinho tried to find a way to fit Rooney in the squad. But injury woes and deteriorating form saw the Portuguese manager soon losing faith in the Manchester United captain.
In an insipid season, Rooney scored only 8 goals in 25 appearances for Manchester United, many of which came from the bench. Seeking first-team football, Rooney has finally announced a bitter-sweet farewell to Old Trafford and has returned to his boyhood club, Everton. But for a player that gave his everything to the club for 13 years, it almost appears like a lack-lustrous end to his Old Trafford career.
Chelsea’s former Captain John Terry, who has moved to Aston Villa, after an illustrious career at Stamford Bridge, received a “weird” Guard of Honour in 26th minute at his last game for the club this year. It was also after a season in which Chelsea lifted the Premiere League Trophy.
For Rooney, on the other hand, his final few matches at Old Trafford came for a struggling side that had given up hopes of even qualifying for top -4, pinning all their hopes on Europa League to qualify for Champions Trophy. It also came at a time when Rooney’s place in England international squad has come into serious contention under manager Gareth Southgate.
For a player of his caliber, the return of Rooney at Everton should come with a stamp of security and robustness. But for home fans at Goodison Park, there is a sense of insecurity with many wondering if “Rooney still got it”. Some critics believe the Ronald Koeman side should have moved ahead to the future rather than going back to the past.
All Manchester United and Everton fans will hope that Rooney puts doubts to rest with an amazing season at Goodison Park. But perhaps, Mourinho and Co. could have done more to bid farewell to the Red Devils captain.