With Wayne Rooney having left England for the MLS, we decided to take a look at why he is so underrated in Europe.
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Rooney joined Everton’s first team in 2002 at the very young age of 16. He announced himself on the big stage in that season with a last-minute winning goal against Arsenal on October 19th.
“Rooney is the biggest England talent I’ve seen since I arrived in England. There has certainly not been a player under 20 as good as him since I became a manager here.” – Arsene Wenger
He would go on to be awarded the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year that year and in the next (2003), he became one of the world’s highest paid teenagers. Before the 2004 EPL season, Sir Alex Ferguson signed Rooney for a whopping £25.6 million. He repaid the Scottish manager’s trust by scoring a hat trick on his Champions League debut. At 18 years of age, Rooney was turning heads. The fortune United paid for his services would soon seem a bargain to the United board.
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Since joining the red side of Manchester, Rooney has won everything possible at club level, except for the European Super Cup. He has been English champion five times and has one champions league medal. In his last season at Old Trafford, he completed his haul of major trophies by captaining United to a Europa League win. Trophy-wise, Wayne Rooney has achieved what most professional players can only dream of.
At the individual level, Rooney is the top scorer for both club and country. He surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton’s 249 goals in January 2017 and also became United’s top scorer in Europe that year, at the expense of a certain Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Given that as a forward he was considered to be relatively selfless, Rooney could easily have raised his goal tally for club and country. The period where Cristiano Ronaldo was marauding the flanks at United come to mind. During that time, Ferguson sacrificed Wayne Rooney to get the best out of Ronaldo, who had more of a penchant for individual accolades than the Englishman.
In 2012, Rooney endeared himself even further to the Old Trafford crowd by scoring this amazing overhead kick against bitter rivals Manchester City.
“It was stunning. Unbelievable. We’ve had some fantastic goals here but in terms of execution….you’ll never see that.” – Sir Alex Ferguson
Another major achievement was captaining both Manchester United and the England National Team, a feat that only a select few have ever accomplished.
With the mighty list of honors listed above, why then is Wayne Rooney under appreciated?
We need to keep in mind that he broke out at a very young age and by the 2011-12 season had already reached his peak. People do not remember the young, energetic Wayne Rooney who was a nightmare for defences but rather the Rooney of the past few seasons, who is a shadow of his past self. Another reason would be he is from the same generation as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. It is easy to be forgotten in the era of these two magicians. If it were not for Lionel Messi, Rooney would have two more Champions League winner’s medals to his name.
Some critics have claimed Rooney is overrated because of his inability to carry the team on his shoulders, for example with England in international championships. Wayne Rooney is above all a team player. He is not one who will do everything on his own and dazzle with dribbles. With England, the blame lies heavily on the Football Association (FA) itself for hiring sub par coaches on exorbitant salaries, who could not get much out of a great squad. With Manchester United, Rooney had two 34 goal seasons, showing he can take things in his own hands when needed. It’s telling that his decline came when Sir Alex Ferguson left and United were recruiting average players.
With the record he boasts, Wayne Rooney is undoubtedly a United legend and can hold his head high among the Premier League greats like Henry and Drogba. North american soccer fans now have the privilege of watching a legend play in front of them.
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