It took a while, but it was worth the wait for Wayne Rooney as his stunning free kick in injury time against Stoke City made him the all time top goalscorer in Manchester United history. The strike took him to 250 goals for the club, breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s record in the process. The former Everton player will definitely go down as one of the all time greats, but not many greats can claim to be as divisive a figure as the Englishman. Throughout his time at Old Trafford, there have been numerous standing ovations, and at the same time, numerous calls for his axe. The incidents in his personal life have always made him a big target for the English Media who have made him a national scapegoat, blaming him for every failure the team encounters. But, for a neutral football fan, what will Wayne Rooney’s legacy be?
For me, I’ve admired Rooney ever since I started watching football because of his wonderful partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo back then. Despite being a Chelsea fan, I stared in awe as he turned in some brilliant performances against the Blues, especially in the CL quarterfinal in 2011 and the 3-1 loss at Old Trafford in the Premier League in the same year. His footballing ability was hitting its peak and comparisons were being made with Messi and Ronaldo. Under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, he was shaping up brilliantly and made his entire team tick as well. Even after the arrival of Robin Van Persie, he adapted his game to a more supportive role and the partnership won United the title in Ferguson’s last year. However, this also coincided with the beginning of his slow stagnation.
Off field incidents have been aplenty. Sex scandals, booze parties, night-outs before important games and a couple of transfer requests largely cover what the England International has been criticised for over the past few years. Rooney can be a frustrating character at times. Every time you think he’s turned over a new leaf, he will undo all his good work with moments of madness. Two of his best seasons were followed by transfer sagas. His hat-trick which inspired a Manchester United comeback against West Ham was marred by the suspension he received for swearing in front of the camera. He missed the FA cup semi final and United lost to eventual winners, Manchester City. He was brilliant in England’s Euro 2012 qualifier before losing his head and getting suspended for violent conduct just before the tournament which saw him miss the opening two games. A stride forwards was usually accompanied by a few steps backwards and this left fans frustrated more often than not.
Fitness is something that is crucial for any sportsperson to compete at the highest level, and poor management of the player saw his performances deteriorate. He could no longer outrun defences nor could he out-muscle them. Personally, LVG’s choice of playing Rooney in midfield was poor. Even after the injury crisis was averted, he still continued to employ the skipper in middle of the park. Instead of backing the captain to lead from his preferred position, he chose to play Rooney in midfield and playing in a deeper role meant that the predatory skills of a striker was slowly sapped out of him. Rooney is a good midfielder, but he’s a natural striker and at 29 then, he should have continued playing up front. As much as you can criticize Rooney for being greedy at times, he never questioned the manager and played like a true leader on the pitch, something he has never been given enough credit for.
He is a fighter. Over the last two years, opportunities have been very few, but he still continues to give his all for the club. His record breaking 250th goal is a perfect example of that. He scored just in time to secure a draw for his team with a stunning free kick reminiscent of Rooney in his prime. There was very little celebration after as he hurried his teammates to restart the game immediately. That is what Rooney is all about. He might leave to China or the USA at the end of the season, but his legacy will remain intact for years to come. A few believe that despite his achievements, he will still not be considered as big a legend as Sir Bobby Charlton. Those are the same people who still make Gerrard slipping memes on the internet and their statements mean nothing. As for me, there is a little disappointment that for all his potential, Rooney may have underachieved a bit. He never hit the peak like Cristiano Ronaldo nor could he maintain his fitness for long like Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But, the all time England and Manchester United record goalscorer will go down as one of the all time greats and that is how true football fans will remember him.
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