Wayne Rooney’s spectacular Manchester United career has come to an end. The 31 year old has completed a free transfer to his boyhood club Everton. In 13 hugely successful years at Manchester United, Rooney has won it all, scoring 253 in 559 appearances in the process. This tally makes him United’s all-time leading goalscorer, having overtaken Sir Bobby Charlton’s long standing record this season.
Rooney’s relationship with United has been a tempestuous one. His flirtations with Manchester City probably are United fan’s biggest grievance, but there can be no doubt that Rooney has etched his name into the club’s history, cementing his place as United’s most important player of this century.
His time at United is littered with memorable moments, too many to choose from, but here are some of the highlights:
Hat-trick on his debut:
Rooney had to sit out the first month of his United career because of injury following his move from Everton. He made his bow for United on the 28th September, 2004, against Turkish giants Fenerbahce at Old Trafford. His debut couldn’t have gone better, the 18 year old Rooney bagging a hat trick.
His first was a cool finish past after a van Nistelrooy through ball, his second was rifled in from 20 yards and his third from a freekick completed an almost perfect hat trick. That debut summed up Wayne Rooney: no fear, energy, commitment and technique, and that hat trick foretold everything he’d go on to achieve.
Derby Day Bicycle:
Rooney has scored more goals for United in the Manchester Derby than anyone, but his bicycle kick in 2011 will never be forgotten. The 2010-2011 season was about to enter the title run in, and the previous week United had lost against Wolves. United played City next and were level at home in the 78th minute when Nani hit a deflected cross into the City area. Time seemed to stand still for everyone apart from Rooney. He adjusted his body shape and attempted an outrageous bicycle kick, which flew past a bewildered Joe Hart, giving United the game.
That goal will certainly go down as one of Rooney’s best, and perhaps will be remembered among the great Premier League goals. It was not only the audacity, attempting such a thing in such a big game, it was also the importance of the goal. This derby victory was crucial to United’s eventual march to the title, and few others could score such a spectacular goal on such an important stage.
15 minute hat trick:
A few weeks after that bicycle, United found themselves 2 goals down with 15 minutes to play against West Ham in the title run in. A season defining game, Rooney stepped up and scored two freekicks and a penalty as United labored to a 4-2 victory. While celebrating his third, Rooney swore directly at a Sky TV camera, earning him a two match ban, which meant his missed a crucial FA cup semi-final, which United lost. But a few weeks later, United were crowned Champions, Rooney’s hat-trick against West Ham and bicycle against City being two high-points in a season of relative lows for Rooney.
This hat trick summed up so much about Wayne Rooney, his technique, ability to produce in high pressure situations, and also the more fiery side of his temperament, which endeared him to some and made him both such a great player and a liability at times.
FA Cup Final, 2016
Before 2016, only the FA cup had evaded Rooney. He’d come close previously, losing a final in extra time against Chelsea in 2007. But in 2016, United faced Crystal Palace in the final. Palace went ahead late in the game, but Juan Mata equalised almost immediately after. Rooney made the goal, with a gutsy, typically Wayne Rooney charge forward. This moment encapsulated what Rooney had done for United countless times since 2004 – grab his team by the scruff of the neck and force them forwards.
In the second half Jesse Lingard fired a spectacular volley home to give Rooney his first FA cup trophy. He was rightly voted Man of the Match for his performance, which clinched the final piece of his personal trophy cabinet, and this performance can be remembered as one of Rooney’s relatively few highs following Sir Alex’s retirement.
2007/08 Champion’s League
Sir Alex never hid the fact that the Champion’s League was his holy grail. He’d already won it in those unforgettable 3 minutes in Munich in 2009, but he needed to secure a second to cement his place as United’s greatest ever manager.
For the first time in history, the Champion’s League final was contested between two English clubs, United and Chelsea. United had beaten Barcelona in the semis (with a spectacular Paul Scholes goal), and were able to triumph over Chelsea 6-5 on penalties. Though Rooney had a quiet game, and didn’t take one of the winning penalties, this victory probably marks the high-point of his career. Rooney was a key figure in the best team in Europe, playing alongside Ronaldo and Tevez in a front three any team in the world would have envied. It was only fitting that Rooney could win a Champion’s League in his United career, European triumph being a mark of all United’s past greats.