With reports emanating that England and Manchester United’s record goal scorer may be crossing the pond to ply his trade in the MLS with DC United, the age-old questions have once again reared its ugly head. Is Wayne Rooney an under-achiever? Should he have gotten more out of his prodigious ability? Why even at the peak of his powers could he not carry his nation to international success? Speak to the loyalists and they will present an argument of a player arguably England’s greatest natural talent since Gazza. Speak to those who sneer at his unparalleled club achievements and issues of unfulfilled potential are raised. Whichever side you fall on, there can be no question that Wayne Rooney leaving the Premier League would see our country lose a true global superstar.
Having burst on to the scene with that now iconic thunderbolt past David Seaman to earn his boyhood side Everton vicory over Arsenal, many predicted bright things for the then 16-year-old. He became the second youngest first-team player in the club’s history behind Joe Royle and was at the time the youngest goal scorer in Premier League history. Arsene Wenger himself said post-match: ”Rooney is the biggest England talent I’ve seen since I arrived in England. There has certainly not been a player under 20 as good as him since I became a manager here.’
After spending a couple of seasons playing for the Toffees’ first team came the big money move many had predicted. Having submitted a transfer request in August 2004, a deal was eventually reached with Manchester United for upwards of £25 million. It was the highest transfer fee ever paid a teenager. Sir Alex Ferguson admitted eyebrows were raised when he convinced the club’s board to shell out such an eye-watering amount for such a fledgling talent.
Sir Alex was immediately vindicated. Making his United debut in the Champions League against Fenerbache, Rooney announced his arrival at the Theatre of Dreams with an emphatic hat-trick, belying his tender years. It was the beginning of a largely successful career at club level, including claiming five Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a Champions League winners medal in 2008.
In the 2010-2011 season came perhaps Rooney’s greatest ever goal, and certainly one of the best English football has ever seen. On February 12th, Rooney conjured an overhead kick of the highest order to sink Manchester rivals City and secure a 2-1 win. It highlighted his unparalleled technique and oft under-estimated athleticism and once again showed his class in the biggest of games. His manager would go on to describe it as the greatest goal ever witnessed at Old Trafford.
After further titles and successes, Rooney eventually eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton’s Manchester United goal record after scoring a last-minute free-kick against Stoke on January 21st 2017. It was his 250th strike for the Red Devils and ensured he would go down in folklore. The season would prove to be his last with the club and a return to his boyhood side Everton awaited him. The local lad coming back home to Merseyside. A footballing script made in heaven.
And yet, here we are at the end of the season, and whilst there may be a tinge of sadness at how Rooney’s Everton comeback has panned out the outpouring of emotion has been largely muted. His untimely injury has meant he hasn’t been able to play in the final couple of games to get a proper send-off and Everton fans’ issues with the manager has somewhat put the potential departure of Rooney on the backburner. One hopes not just from an Everton perspective but from a fan of football, that if Rooney does leave the Premier League, then we can begin to accept and appreciate the quality of the man affectionately known as Wazza.