Nobody has scored more goals than Wayne Rooney in Manchester United history — so should he get a statue outside Old Trafford?
Rooney surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton’s record when he made it 250 for United with a strike against Stoke last Saturday.
After joining in 2004, he has gone on to win the Premier League five times as well as the Champions League in a glittering 13-year career. With the Holy Trinity of George Best, Denis Law and Charlton outside Old Trafford, as well as statues for Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson, there have been calls for Rooney to get his own tribute.
Manchester United bloggers Scott Patterson and Musa Okwonga discuss whether Rooney deserves a statue.
Should Rooney get a statue?
Scott Patterson: No. He’s had a brilliant career at United and is deserving of all the recognition he’s received for breaking the goalscoring record. His reward for doing this though is a place in United’s history books and the mammoth salary he stopped being worthy of earning years ago.
Rooney has done really well out of playing for United. He’s won as many league titles as Chelsea have in the club’s entire history and more than Manchester City. He’s also won the Champions League, something that Arsenal or City never have. United have enjoyed success because they’ve had Rooney in the team, but it’s a two-way street. Any other club would have moved him on a few seasons ago, so he doesn’t need a statue as a way of thanks. If Eric Cantona doesn’t get one, Rooney certainly doesn’t.
Musa Okwonga: Yes. He is the all-time leading scorer at one of the world’s most fabled clubs, which is an exceptional achievement. He has more than repaid the faith and the money that was invested in him, and though he has not been as effective in recent seasons his work ethic and ability to be decisive in key moments make him stand apart. There are others among Old Trafford’s greats who probably deserve statues of their own — including, more controversially, Roy Keane — but that does not make Rooney less worthy of this accolade.
Is he a Manchester United legend?
SP: This depends on your definition of the word. Is he a club legend like Sir Bobby Charlton, Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes? Obviously not. He’s not a red, it’s unlikely he’ll have an awful lot to do with the club once he leaves, and he’s only still there because United refused to sell him when he asked to go in 2010 and again in 2013.
When Giggs replaced Charlton’s appearances record that was a proud moment for the club. It was fitting that a player who had grown up at United and supported them all his life went on to replace a legend’s record. The same can’t be said of Rooney, though.
That’s not to say his achievement should be scoffed at. Scoring 250 goals for one club is incredible and he deserves all the praise. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of supporters hoping they only have to wait another decade or so for Marcus Rashford to outscore him.
MO: Yes. He was there for many of the club’s pivotal matches in recent history, and for much of that time has been the team’s talisman. He has wom five Premier League titles and one Champions League and led the team ably during some of its more difficult periods. He has formed superb partnerships with Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robin van Persie and Cristiano Ronaldo, and has provided some of the club’s most thrilling moments.
Why is Rooney not universally adored among the club’s support?
SP: He used to be. It’s not often you’d have a Scouser’s name chanted every week at Old Trafford, although maybe he was given a bit of leniency because he was from the blue side and shared the hatred United fans felt towards Liverpool.
Asking to leave in 2010 meant some fans never forgave him, particularly as City was his destination of choice. He made U-turn because he was widely ridiculed for even suggesting that United couldn’t match his ambition and also because he was offered a huge contract.
Still, for those that did forgive him, and believed it when he said that was the biggest mistake of his career, many had to turn their back on him when he did the same thing less than three years later. This time it was Chelsea he had his eye on.
Fans don’t demand loyalty from the players. They come and go. But what made Rooney different is he spent the first six years of his career kissing the badge, talking of his love for the club and how he wanted to retire there. There was no need to do that but in behaving that way it made his disloyalty all the more painful and all the harder to forgive.
MO: Here is the main point of contention — that his devotion to the cause has at times been questionable. Some will never forgive him for apparently seeking a move away not once but twice — on one occasion, to local rivals Manchester City. For some supporters, these are inexcusable sins. There are also concerns over his physical conditioning. Many others, though, will point to his extraordinary efforts whenever on the pitch — and that, even when he went through some of his worst patches of form, he never hid from possession or responsibility.
He’s the leading scorer for United and England: Why is there a debate over his legacy?
SP: In terms of games played, for club and country, Rooney has as many matches under his belt as Paul Scholes did when he retired for the first time at 36. Because Rooney is only 31, some are deceived in to thinking he should have plenty of years left.
That’s why he was given the captain’s armband for club and country, and that is why he was still afforded, until very recently, a central role in both teams.
Rooney’s form has declined massively over recent years so it’s understandable fans would become frustrated to see him start every game when there are clearly better players available.
His goal tally has continued to rise but when was the last time he scored a really important goal for England or United? His only goal at Euro 2016 was the penalty in the 2-1 defeat against Iceland. In the World Cup before that, his only goals were in the group stage defeats against Italy and Uruguay.
For United, his last major goal was over a year ago when he scored a late winner at Liverpool. Scoring accidental goals against Championship sides like Reading or consolation goals in defeats against appalling Europa League teams like Fenerbahce doesn’t seem fitting of the achievement.
Had he bowed out gracefully, playing less football and not demanding centre stage, he’d probably be thought of more fondly by England and United fans alike.
MO: Because his form has declined severely over the course of the last three seasons — so much so that it has come to hinder the progress of both club and country. His game was based upon explosiveness, much of which has now gone, and now he is mostly used as a substitute — when all forwards are fully fit, he cannot hope to be more than third or fourth choice. This is some fall from grace, which partly speaks to how long he has been in the game but also to how quickly and cruelly age has started to leave him behind.
How would you commemorate his achievements at the club?
SP: United hero Charlton can shake his hand on the pitch ahead of the next game against Wigan and present him with a free plane ticket to China. One way.
MO: With a statue — but only so long as other legends of the club, who have contributed yet more to its illustrious history, were also similarly honoured.