London (AFP) – Wayne Rooney’s incredible success as Manchester United and England’s record goalscorer should provide a sturdy foundation as the iconic striker takes his first managerial role with Derby.
Rooney’s remarkable achievements on the pitch have given him an education money cannot buy.
Now the 35-year-old must transfer his wealth of experience into rescuing Championship strugglers Derby from the threat of relegation to League One.
The early signs are encouraging as Rooney, who was officially confirmed as permanent boss on Friday, oversaw three wins and four draws from nine matches as interim boss.
Having announced his retirement as a player at the same time his appointment was revealed, Rooney can focus solely on the latest intriguing step in an always eventful career.
“It’s a new chapter for me. Of course I’ll miss playing but time doesn’t suffer no man. I’ve had my time,” Rooney said.
“Standing on the touchline during a game or when you put a plan in place, which the players execute, it’s a completely different buzz.”
Born in Liverpool, Rooney fulfilled a childhood dream by breaking through the ranks at Everton.
He quickly earned a reputation as the most talented teenager in English football, announcing his arrival with a sensational strike to beat then-champions Arsenal five days before his 17th birthday.
International recognition soon followed and when Rooney scored four times in the group stages of Euro 2004, England had a new national hero.
But the teenager limped off midway through the first half of the quarter-final loss to Portugal after suffering a broken bone in his foot.
Without him, England suffered another heartbreaking exit on penalties and, rather than acting as a springboard, that was as close as Rooney ever came to winning an international tournament.
His performances helped earn him seal a £27 million ($37 million) move to Manchester United weeks later.
“I think we have got the best young player this country has seen in the past 30 years,” said United boss Alex Ferguson on the day he splashed out a then world record fee for a teenager.
– Unselfish star –
Rooney soon started paying that fee back, scoring a hat-trick on debut in the Champions League against Fenerbahce.
It took until his third season at Old Trafford to win the Premier League, by which point Rooney had struck up a deadly partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Wayne would say: ‘I want to be the world’s best but I’ll do it by being a team player’,” said former United defender Rio Ferdinand.
“He was playing left wing-half the time when Ronaldo was there for the last couple of years to cover full-backs. He would do that with no questions asked.”
Together, Rooney and Ronaldo won three consecutive Premier League titles, the Champions League in 2008 and fell just short in the Champions League final a year later to an all-conquering Barcelona side.
Rooney’s most prolific seasons came once Ronaldo departed, scoring 34 goals in both 2009/10 and 2011/12.
He also won two more league titles and reached the Champions League final again, only for United to be outclassed once more by Barca in 2011 despite a Rooney goal in the final at Wembley.
– Fallen hero –
However, his hero status with the United fans was damaged by two requests to leave the club before being handed lucrative contract extensions.
Despite becoming his country’s all-time top scorer, inopportune injuries often prevented Rooney carrying his club form into international tournaments.
Rooney’s solitary World Cup goal could not prevent England’s elimination in Brazil 2014 after just two of their three group games and the last of his 53 England goals came from the penalty spot in a humiliating Euro 2016 exit to Iceland.
He retired from international football a year later, shortly after sealing a return to his beloved Everton, but only after also surpassing Charlton as United’s top scorer with 253 goals in a 13-year career.
His Goodison return did not prove the fairytale ending Rooney had hoped for.
On the pitch, Everton’s struggles saw Ronald Koeman sacked just two months into the campaign and Rooney’s playing time was limited under Sam Allardyce before a brief sojourn in America with DC United.
Rooney joined Derby as a player-coach last January before succeeding sacked by Phillip Cocu.
Now he will aim to prove the second act of his football life can be as successful as his first.
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