Manchester United have recently wrapped up their second signing of the summer in Romelu Lukaku. While the Belgian is on his way to Old Trafford, Wayne Rooney is heading back home, to Goodison Park.
With Rooney’s departure, many fans have begun debating about his status among the club’s greats. However, looking back at his 13 year career at Old Trafford, there should be no question about his legendary status. Since his arrival in 2004, he has led Manchester United to numerous trophies. On his return to boyhood club Everton, he should have no regrets about his career.
The past few seasons have seen his performances drop in both quality and quantity. While it was the right time to leave Manchester United, his legacy should not determined by his decline. Manchester United fans should remember Rooney for his incredible displays and the lasting impact he will leave in the Red Devils’ history books.
When Wayne Rooney burst onto the scene as a teenager, there was no question that a star was in the making. His undeniable talent was what earned him a move to Manchester United at just 18 years of age. What made him an instant fan-favourite, however, was the hunger for success which oozed out of his performances.
As a young man, Rooney would let his temper get the better of him, constantly going after referees, diving into tackles and playing right on the edge week in and week out. While it usually resulted in bookings or injuries, it is exactly how he endeared himself to the Red Devils faithful.
Into his later years, Rooney learned how to control his emotions and turn them towards bettering his performances. Even these past seasons during his decline, he was at his best when Manchester United needed him most. He came to life whenever they were chasing games, almost willing his team to late goals and comebacks. Certainly, he has been a consummate professional these past few years. Keeping a strong head on his shoulders, he deserves all the credit for handling his struggles properly.
During Rooney’s prime seasons, he presented a threat that Premier League defences were unable to handle. The ability to finish from inside or outside the box, with power or finesse, made him impossible to predict. Coupled with his ability to create from deeper, play-making positions or make intelligent runs beyond defenders, he was a revolution in the Premier League.
While Rooney possesses a vast array of skills, his ball-striking has always separated him from the average striker. Whether bursting onto the scene against Arsenal, smashing home a volley against Newcastle, or burying a bicycle kick against Manchester City, he is a scorer of wonder goals. His ball-striking also contributed to his passing ability, which is more like that of a central midfielder than a striker.
Rooney finished his Manchester United career with 198 goal Premier League goals, sitting behind only Alan Shearer (260) in the Premier League record books. In addition to playing up front, throughout his career he has been deployed on both wings and in central midfield. Being able to score that many goals while constantly being moved around the pitch speaks volumes as to his natural instincts as not only a goalscorer, but a footballer.
The Perfect Career
While Rooney’s Premier League career will last at least another two seasons, it is safe to say his time is coming to an end. When all is said and done, he will be one of the few players who can safely have no regrets over his career.
Having worked through Everton’s youth system, Rooney was able to debut for his childhood team. Two years later, he earned a transfer to Manchester United and lifted the prestigious Golden Boy award. 13 years with the Red Devils saw Rooney lift every club trophy possible, the highlight being the Champions League in 2008.
He now returns home, likely to retire in the colours he truly loves. He leaves Manchester United with 253 competitive goals; a record unlikely to be broken in his lifetime. He is undoubtedly the most scrutinised of all the Premier League’s elite goalscorers, and now deserves to be recognised as a lethal finisher, an excellent leader, and a Premier League legend.