Against Hull City, Wayne Rooney scored a sensational goal to become the second player in Premier League history to score 150 goals with one team; the first is Arsenal legend and current New York Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry. The accomplishment is a testament to his longevity, class and skill, but Rooney’s spotlight has seemed to dim the past few years.
The narrative of Rooney from when he first appeared on the scene to what it is today has changed drastically. On October 19, 2002, the Merseyside native’s 25 yard goal helped Everton win 2-1 over Arsenal to end their 30-match unbeaten streak and made him at the time the youngest person to score a Premier League goal. Arsène Wenger stated following the match “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. We were beaten by a special goal from a very special talent.”
Rooney was viewed as the next hero of English football. In 2004, when he left his boyhood club for Manchester United, BBC Sport football writer Phil McNulty said at the time that “Rooney will give United a touch of the [Eric] Cantona fantasy and there is no doubt that barring a cruel intervention of fate, is destined to be an English football icon.” Now the 28-year old is one of the most underrated footballers in the world due to exciting and dynamic players like Zlatan Ibrahimović, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Luis Suarez. Rooney’s all-around game revolves around versatility, strength, work-rate, teamwork, and efficient passing, which often goes under the radar.
Sir Alex Ferguson once claimed that Rooney was “The best young player this country has seen in the past 30 years,” but he never seemed to trust the two-time England Player of the Year to be his number one striker. Since Rooney joined the Red Devils, he has played all over the pitch as a center forward, secondary striker, in the hole as a number 10, and on the wide left. Rooney has played successfully at every role he was requested to do and has supported players such as Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen, Cristiano Ronaldo, Louis Saha, Carlos Tevez, Robin van Persie, and Ruud van Nistelrooy. When Ronaldo left for Real Madrid in 2009, Rooney was finally given a shot to be the leading man for Manchester United and he did not disappoint. In 44 appearances for the 2009-10 season, he scored 34 goals. He was named Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year, Professional Footballers’ Association Players’ Player of the Year, and the Barclays Player of the Year but Chelsea won the league and the next year Berbatov was featured more as the target man. Since Van Persie’s arrival last season, Rooney struggled to still be viewed as a utility player because he believed he had paid his dues and deserved to be played up front. Ferguson famously stated near the end of the season when the Red Devils were ending their 20th league title campaign that Rooney handed in a transfer request.