How brilliant is United’s Wayne Rooney?

Wayne Rooney’s portfolio now includes the title of Manchester United’s record scorer in European football after goal No39 came against Feyenoord last week. With Rooney also set to become United’s all-time leading marksman – a status he already holds with England – celebrates this once-in-a-generation forward.

What they say
“He is, first of all, as a person, fantastic. I had the luck to get to know the person. And as a player, there are not enough words because he is the perfect player – everybody knows what he can do, what he did and what he has done.”
Zlatan Ibrahimović, United team-mate

“He was so powerful I called him ‘the Pitbull’. He was a fantastic team player and he scored goals. He helped me a lot. I miss playing with him. The future nobody knows; maybe one day we will play together again.”
Cristiano Ronaldo, former United team-mate

Sir Alex Ferguson  Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)Sir Alex Ferguson and Wayne Rooney©Getty Images

“I always think great players can play in any era. Bobby Charlton would have been a great player today and Wayne Rooney would have been a great player back then. Wayne has gone on to play for Manchester United for 12 years, which is very difficult in the present day.”
Sir Alex Ferguson, former United manager

“Some of the things he could do as a young boy … He was an old-fashioned street footballer and he could have played any position. He loved the game and he’s still the same. He’s not changed that much.”
David Moyes, former Everton and United manager

Current tally
International: 119 appearances, 53 goals
UEFA club competition: 96 appearances, 39 goals
Domestic competition: 615 appearances, 265 goals

Wayne Rooney (Everton FC)Wayne Rooney during his time at Everton©Getty Images

Claims to fame
• The prodigious nature of his talent had been apparent when he notched 114 goals in a 30-game season with Everton’s Under-10s, including an overhead kick in a 12-2 hammering of United.

• Rooney’s first league goal came on his ninth outing for Everton and was worth the wait – a 30-metre finish over Arsenal keeper David Seaman which (at the time) made the 16-year-old the Premier League’s youngest ever scorer.

• That strike – one of 17 Rooney bagged for his childhood heroes – arrived in the 90th minute of a 2-1 Everton win that ended champions Arsenal’s 30-match unbeaten run. Some introduction!

Rooney on his 2004 debut hat-trick against FenerbahçeRooney on his 2004 debut hat-trick against Fenerbahçe

• On his United debut in 2004, following a €30 transfer to Old Trafford, Rooney became the youngest scorer of a UEFA Champions League hat-trick, claiming three goals and an assist in a 6-2 group-stage shellacking of Fenerbahçe.

• Rooney has gilded his United career with ten major trophies, among them a UEFA Champions League title collected in Moscow in 2008, when he played wide left against Chelsea and was substituted before the Reds’ penalty shoot-out triumph.

• When United’s No10 did score in a UEFA Champions League final, it was in a losing cause – the 2011 defeat by Barcelona. His most recent final ended more happily, as he picked up a first FA Cup following a man-of-the-match cameo against Crystal Palace in May.

• The teak-tough attacker has been a scourge on Manchester City, establishing himself as the 11-goal record marksman in Manchester derbies – most memorably with an overhead winner past Joe Hart in February 2011.

Wayne Rooney exclusive: My England storyWayne Rooney exclusive: My England story

• First capped in February 2003, he took UEFA EURO 2004 by storm with two goals apiece in consecutive group games against Switzerland and Croatia. The 18-year-old thus became the (then) youngest scorer in a UEFA European Championship finals.

• A metatarsal injury in the quarter-final against hosts Portugal prevented more heroics, and the last-eight hurdle tripped up Rooney on two further occasions – the 2006 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2012 – with international glory elusive.

• By now a senior dressing-room voice, Rooney was appointed England captain by Roy Hodgson after the 2014 World Cup and in succession to Steven Gerrard. He continues in the role to this day.

• The one-time boy wonder became the ninth England international to achieve a century of appearances when featuring against Slovenia in November 2014. Ten months later he became his country’s 50-goal all-time top scorer with a penalty versus Switzerland.

Highlights: Man. United 4-0 FeyenoordWatch Rooney break United’s European record

What you might not know
• Football’s loss was nearly boxing’s gain when, in his early teens, the future soccer star seriously considered pursuing a career in the ring. He remembered: “I was doing boxing as well as football, but then I stopped going to boxing. Thankfully it was the right decision.”

• Everton youth coach Colin Harvey had to talk a 14-year-old Rooney out of early retirement during a period when he “had stopped enjoying football”. “He sat me down and made me fall back in love with football,” Rooney said.

• Eleven years after leaving, Rooney made his Everton comeback as a substitute in a benefit match for Duncan Ferguson, the former Blues centre-forward who was his boyhood idol. Everton repaid the favour by providing the opposition for Rooney’s testimonial in August.

• The follicly challenged forward tackled male pattern baldness head on, undergoing hair transplants in 2011 and 2013. “I was going bald at 25, why not,” he tweeted unapologetically.

• According to Rooney, former United and England team-mate Paul Scholes is the best player he has ever played with – while Clarence Seedorf has been his most impressive opponent.

Wayne Rooney  Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United FC)Wayne Rooney and Sir Alex Ferguson©Getty Images

What he says
“[After scoring a hat-trick on his UEFA Champions League debut] It’s a great feeling to score goals and to score goals for this club. I’m pleased and I’m sure there’s plenty more to come.

“If I was sat here at 25, 26 talking about playing centre midfield or deeper midfield I wouldn’t want to play there of course. But now I’m at a stage where that might be better suited to me. Certainly No10 might be better suited to me.”

“I love football. In football, you have highs and lows. I wake up every day and love what I am doing. I cannot imagine my life without football.”

“Football is made up of all kinds of conflict. In a dressing room, between players, between us and the manager, between us and loads of people who don’t seem to matter. It’s constant and harsh sometimes.”

Sir Bobby Charlton  Wayne Rooney (England)Sir Bobby Charlton and Wayne Rooney©Getty Images

What he might achieve yet
• Rooney eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton to set his England strike record and he currently stands one short of Sir Bobby’s long-time club record tally of 249 United goals in all competitions.

• He also needs six more caps to join history-making former goalkeeper Peter Shilton on a record 125 – though he says he will retire from national service after the 2018 World Cup.

• Premier League. Tick. FA Cup and League Cup. Tick. UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup. Tick. There is still space, however, for the UEFA Europa League on the Rooney honours list, should United prosper in that competition this season.

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