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He goes by the name of Wayne Rooney

Wayne Mark Rooney, born 24 October 1985, is a name that will be forever etched into the annals of Manchester United history. Widely considered one of the greatest players of his generation, Rooney is the record goalscorer for both United and England.

Born in the Croxteth suburb of Liverpool, Rooney grew up supporting Everton. It was evident from an extremely early age that he would never be far from a football. He excelled for Liverpool Schoolboys – scoring a record breaking 72 goals in the 1996-97 season, a record that stood until 2010. With performances of this magnitude, he would inevitably attract much attention.

Rooney was signed by Everton shortly before his eleventh birthday – after a successful pursuit by club scout, Bob Pendleton. It didn’t take him long to progress through the youth ranks, and he’d impress enough to make his professional debut in August 2002 at the age of sixteen. His first senior goal came on 2 October when he netted twice in a 3–0 League cup win over Wrexham. This feat made Rooney the clubs youngest ever scorer at that time.

“Remember the name – Wayne Rooney!”

On 19 October, just five days before his seventeenth birthday, Rooney would become the youngest goalscorer in Premier League history, a record that has since been surpassed. In the dying minutes of an extremely tight game against Arsenal, Rooney would score an iconic last-minute winner. The goal ended a 30-game unbeaten run for the Gunners, and propelled Rooney into superstardom.

In December, Rooney would go on to be named 2002 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year. Six days later, he’d score the winning goal in a 2-1 home win against Blackburn Rovers. Known for possessing somewhat of a tempestuous personality, he would receive his first senior red card on 26 December against Birmingham City. Ironically, despite the rollercoaster three months that was the senior birth of Wayne Rooney, he was yet to sign his first professional contract. This didn’t take long however, and in January 2003, Rooney put pen to paper with his boyhood club – making him one of the worlds highest-paid teenage players.

Rooney would go on to make 77 appearances for the Toffees, netting 17 times. In July 2004, amidst intense transfer speculation, Rooney would go on to reject a new contract offer from Everton. Acknowledging a somewhat precarious financial situation at the club, Everton chairman Bill Kenwright admitted that a transfer would revitalise the club, as per BBC Sport. Newcastle United attempted to lure the young star up North – with a reported £20M transfer offer rejected by Everton. In August 2004, Rooney would finally acknowledge the continuous speculation and officially submit a transfer request. Two weeks later, Everton would reach an agreement with Manchester United for the transfer of the player. A fee of £20M up front, with a further £7M in add-ons was reportedly enough for United to land their man. It would be the highest transfer fee paid for a player under the age of twenty. He was handed the number 8 shirt.

Rooney would make his debut for the Red Devils in a Champions League tie against Turkish side Fenerbahce on September 28 2004. It would turn out to be the dream debut for the teenager as he netted a hat-trick in a 6-2 victory at Old Trafford. These goals would make Rooney the youngest player to net a Champions League hat-trick, aged 18 years and 335 days – yet another remarkable feat for such a young man.

His first season at the club would return mixed results. A 3rd place league finish was accompanied by three cup defeats – both domestically and on the continent. Individually, Rooney would end the season as the clubs top league scorer (with 11 goals), and he was rightfully credited with the PFA Young Player of the Year award for his efforts.

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His first trophy came in the 2005-06 League Cup, with Rooney netting a brace in a 4-0 win against Wigan Athletic. United would go one better than the previous season in the league, finishing runners up to rivals Chelsea. He would net 16 Premier League goals that season, but suffered an unfortunate broken metatarsal in a league defeat in April. Rooney would go on to retain the PFA Young Player of the Year award that year.

The 2006-07 season would place Rooney in uncharted territory, with the striker enduring a ten game scoreless streak during the 1st half of the season. Despite his obvious brilliance, it was a trait that would recur on several occasions throughout his career. The season would return many memorable moments for the Englishman. He would net a brace in an 8-3 aggregate Champions League Quarter Final victory over Roma, and 2 more in a famous semi-final victory over Italian giants AC Milan in April. Despite being denied a dream final against arch-rivals Liverpool, Rooney would claim his first Premier League winners medal – netting 14 league goals along the way.

The 2007-08 campaign saw Rooney handed the number 10 shirt. This particular period was the dawning of one of the most dominant periods in United’s illustrious history. Despite tasting defeat in the semi-final of the Champions League the previous season, United would go one step further in the 2007-08 competition, defeating rivals Chelsea in a famous All-English final. The club would also go on to retain their Premier League title – bringing United to their 17th overall.

Sir Alex Ferguson had developed this side meticulously, and built the attack around a trio of Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. This trio would strike fear into the hearts of defences around the globe, and this was solidified with success in the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup. Rooney proved extremely influential throughout the tournament and was rewarded with the Golden Ball as the tournaments best player. The 2008-09 campaign was extremely fruitful, with Rooney collecting his 3rd League winners medal, equalling the record of 18 titles, as well as United lifting the League Cup again. The club would reach the final of the Champions League once more, unfortunately losing out to a Leo Messi-inspired Barcelona.

Despite a somewhat bleak trophy return in the 2009-10 season, Rooney would achieve even more individual success. He was awarded the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, as well as the PFA Fans Player of the Year. United would retain the League Cup, becoming the 1st side since Nottingham Forrest in 1990 to do so. Unfortunately, United would miss out on a record breaking fourth consecutive League title – losing out by one point to Chelsea. In Europe, United were attempting to become only the 2nd side to reach three consecutive Champions League finals (after Juventus in 1998), but saw a contentious quarter-final defeat to Bayern Munich end those hopes.

The 2010-11 campaign brought about a surprising chapter in the Englishmans career. Despite several years of domination across the globe, Ferguson would shock the world when announcing Rooney’s desire to leave the club. Rooney and his representatives would solidify this by releasing a statement, insisting the decision was not down to money; instead down to a lack of ambition by the club. Despite the events, and public bewilderment on show by his manager, Rooney would make a dramatic U-turn and agree a new five-year contract at the club. The decision was met with mixed opinion amongst the Old Trafford faithful, and many were not entirely convinced by his commitment to the club.

On the pitch, Rooney would endure a rollercoaster that season. There were moments of frustration, and a series of lacklustre displays that had sections questioning his place in the side. This was enough to spur Rooney on, and the striker recorded a piece of history in the Manchester derby. With the game closing out to a 1-1 draw, Rooney would score a sensational bicycle kick to win the game for United. Ferguson would go on to state that the goal was the best he had ever witnessed at Old Trafford.

On 2 April, Rooney would net his fifth hat-trick for the club in a 4-2 victory over West Ham. The second goal would be his 100th for Manchester United in the Premier League – making him only the third player to do so after Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. United would go on to lift the Premier League for a record 19th time – giving Rooney his fourth winners medal. The club would reach another Champions league final, again losing out to Messi’s Barcelona.

The 2011-12 campaign yielded more records for the player. In late August, Rooney would score his 150th goal for the club – the 1st in a hat-trick against Arsenal. He’d then go on to score another hat-trick against Bolton Wanderers, becoming only the fourth player in Premier League history to score a hat-trick in consecutive games. These goals would also bring him level with Sir Bobby Charlton on seven hat-tricks for the club. Following a Champions League brace in October, Rooney would surpass Scholes as the all-time leading English scorer in the competition.

The only silverware returned that season was the community shield. United suffered early exits in both domestic cups, as well as a surprising group stage exit from the Champions League. The side would then go on to be eliminated from the Europa League round of 16. Despite this, Rooney would have an impressive individual season – netting 34 goals, with 27 of those coming in the league. He’d also be named in the PFA Team of the Year for the third time in his career.

The 2012-13 campaign would see Manchester United win an unprecedented 20th English top flight league title. It would be the final year in Sir Alex Ferguson’s illustrious career, and the acquisition of Robin van Persie had attracted the medias gaze. Rooney would endure an injury-hit campaign, starting only 22 league games. Despite that, he’d go on to register his 200th club goal in a 4-2 win over Stoke, and contribute 16 goals across the entire campaign. On 12 May, following a 2-1 victory against Swansea, Ferguson announced that Rooney had handed in a transfer request. It was also stated that Rooney had requested not to play in the game.

Following the departure of the great Scot, newly appointed manager David Moyes announced that Rooney was not for sale. The club rejected a £20M bid from Chelsea, and it was clear that Rooney was central to the managers plans. Rooney would score his 200th goal for United in September against Bayern Leverkusen. He’d net his 150th Premier League goal against Hull in December. Despite the players previous intent to leave the club, he’d sign a contract extension in February to keep him in Manchester until 2019. In March, Rooney would net a brace against West Ham to reach 212 goals for the club – moving him to 3rd on the all time list at United.

With the arrival of Dutch Manager Louis van Gaal, Rooney was appointed club captain in July 2014. In September, Rooney would climb to 3rd on the all-time Premier League scorers list – reaching 176 goals in yet another victory against West Ham. During this campaign, Rooney was often deployed further back the field. This was a tactical decision by van Gaal, and one that saw Rooney often play as an attacking central midfielder. The football was uninspiring at this time, and even though Rooney would finish the season as the clubs top scorer, his tally of 14 was the lowest since 1982.

The 2015-16 campaign saw Rooney become the Premier Leagues 2nd highest scorer of all time. His goal against Swansea on 2 January 2016 saw him reach 238 goals for United, surpassing legend Denis Law as the club’s 2nd highest scorer of all time. Rooney would go on to captain United to 2016 FA Cup success. This was the first time the striker had managed to win the competition in his career.

The 2016-17 campaign would see Rooney become only the 3rd player to reach 100 Premier League assists. He’d go on to overtake Ruud van Nistlerooy as the clubs greatest scorer in Europe – hitting number 39 against Feyenoord in the Europa League. On 21 January 2017, Rooney would pass the record held by Sir Bobby Charlton in scoring his 250th club goal, becoming Manchester Uniteds all time leading goalscorer.

In his final game for Manchester United, Rooney came on as a substitute in the Europa League final victory against Ajax. He would finish his Manchester career as the clubs all time leading scorer with 253 goals, winning five Premier League titles, a Champions League and World Club Cup, as well as each of the Europa League, the FA Cup and three League Cups. His career saw him reach 559 appearances, across 13 seasons for Manchester United.

Wayne Rooney was a versatile attacker, who combined technical ability with strength and physicality. He was, in many peoples eyes, one of the finest players of his generation. ‘Wazza’, a normal lad from Croxteth, arrived in Manchester with a dream. He left as a club legend, inspiring millions to pick up a ball. He had his up’s and downs throughout his career, but his class always appeared when it was needed most. His legend will remain long after you and I, and I’m just glad I was here to witness it.

“Saw my mate, the other day. Said to me he’d seen the white Pele…”

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