'Fabio, I am crazy. I have just spent an awful lot of money on a very young player' these were the words of Sir Alex Ferguson to Fabio Capello at a UEFA meeting in Lyon shortly after paying Everton £25.4 million to sign Wayne Rooney in 2004 after a dominating performance at the European Championships in Portugal making it the highest amount spent for a teenager in world football at the time.
Sir Alex had reservations about signing players on the back of an impressive display at an international tournament but went all out to sign Rooney in the days before paying over the odds for a player was a norm for Manchester United. Fast forward 12 years later and it seems a bargain, another master stroke from United’s legendary leader.
Honours and achievements
Rooney’s honours read as follows; five Premier League titles, one Champions League, one FIFA Club World Championship, one FA Cup, two League Cups and four Community Shields. In terms of personal milestones, he is the record goal scorer for a single club in the Premier League with 179 goals for Manchester United, 2nd highest goal scorer in the Premier league behind Alan Shearer on 194 goals, all-time leading goal scorer for England with 53 goals and today, in the 7th minute of the FA Cup third round game against Reading at Old Trafford, with Sir Alex Ferguson watching in the stands, Wayne Rooney equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 249 goals for Manchester United.
An inspired signing
It is fair to say that had Rooney achieved even half of what he has achieved as a Manchester United player, Sir Alex would have considered him a successful signing, as it stands despite the misgivings about the player, it is hard to name a more inspired signing for Manchester United than the boy from Merseyside.
Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo and Roy Keane were all colossal talents who achieved great things at the club while going further back, George Best was a true icon. But none of these men, great players as they were, have achieved at Manchester United what Rooney has.
With the drop in his form over the last couple of seasons coupled with questions over his discipline and lifestyle choices off the pitch, many associate Rooney with a player barely recognisable from the force of nature that he was for most of his United career. As a result of, Rooney will probably be appreciated much more when he calls it a day.
However, a day like this offers us the opportunity to reflect on the boy wonder the world fell in love with, who grew to be a man at Manchester United.
Goals, goals, goals
Thoughts turn back to the young 18-year-old with his collar ripped as he stood in the tunnel preparing to step unto the pitch for the first time as a Manchester United player before delivering a dream debut with a hat trick against Fenerbache in the Champions league. That was a sign of things to come.
Everyone remembers the brilliant volley against Newcastle that he managed to unleash in between arguing with the referee for a decision that went against him earlier in the game and indeed his overhead kick to win the Manchester derby in a season where he had flirted with the idea of leaving United for their ‘noisy neighbours’. But there were so many others.
His finish from the half way line against West Ham at the Boleyn ground, the brilliant counter attack goal with Ronaldo against Bolton which he finished with a ruthless dink over Jussi Jääskeläinen, the brilliant goal against Arsenal (one of his favoured teams to torment) with a brilliant touch and finish from a Mikael Silvestre cross and of course that banger to win the game against the old enemy at Anfield in 2005 are just a few of the many spectacular and important goals the England international has scored for the club.
They often say that a striker is either a scorer of great goals or a scorer of many goals, in Rooney Manchester United had both.
Rooney’s record is even more impressive considering where he has played on the pitch. In over 10 years at the club, Rooney has played as a centre forward, a number 10, a winger and a central midfielder. He has played with different types of centre forward partners from Robin van Persie to Ruud van Nistelrooy; from Javier Hernandez to Louis Saha and with each of them he has succeeded, won trophies and scored goals.
It is true that in the last couple of seasons Rooney has been less prolific and reduced to a squad player rather than the key player he has been for most of his United career, still that should not take anything away from what he has accomplished for the club.
So, Sir Alex were you crazy to pay so much for this young player? Not, the boy is a genius and congratulations to Rooney on another significant milestone reached, here’s hoping he goes on to stand alone as United’s record goal scorer.