Wayne Rooney is criminally underrated
This weekend bore witness to a historic moment for Wayne Rooney. Arguably English football’s most recognized player became Manchester United’s all time top scorer with his 250th goal for the club. With one delicious free-kick at Bet365 Stadium he usurped the legendary Sir Bobby Charlton and – in turn – ensured his place in the record books.
Considering this is an illustrious list that contains players such as George Best, Dennis Law, Andy Cole and Cristiano Ronaldo, the feat should not be undermined. After all, United are arguably the biggest club in the world. Deloitte’s annual round of totting up saw the Red Devils announced as the richest side of all – above both Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Yet in spite of all this, Rooney still comes in for criticism. The 31-year-old is the top scorer for both his club and country, but the damning comments continue to rain in. People just can’t seem to accpect that he isn’t the player he was 10 years and that he can’t match the goal scoring of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It’s these dizzyingly high expectations that are leading to disappointment and consequential disgust.
The situation isn’t helped by his declining game time, admittedly. Jose Mourinho started the season with intent to call upon his captain on a regular basis; he has since altered his stance. In fact, Rooney’s record-breaking goal emerged after he had been substituted on in favour of Juan Mata.
This doesn’t mean the wheels are flying off though, far from it. This a team in which the Golden Boy winner Anthony Martial can’t get a game, never mind everybody’s favourite boy wonder Marcus Rashford. Yet Rooney can still take to the pitch and have an influence, even if he is given as little game time as he was at the weekend.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the United captain might not be truly appreciated until he bows out of the game. It proves a similar situation, in that sense, to David Beckham who only truly had football fans weak at the knees when retirement loomed. You argue cases for Vincent van Gogh, Galileo Galilei and Edgar Alan Poe.
This is because, after all, when you look back at Rooney’s career, the achievements are endless. The 31-year-old is a Champions League winner with five Premier League titles in his back pocket. Throw in the FIFA Club World Cup, an FA Cup and two League Cups for good measure too.
The list goes on. Rooney became the first player to win the PFA Young Player of the Year Award twice in a row, before garnering the senior prize in 2010. His astonishing bicycle kick versus Manchester City in 2011 was even voted the greatest goal of the first 20 years of the Premier League.
When you’re witnessing the United captain in the middle of a dry spell, it’s easy to forget these achievements. Should a few months of stagnation and time on the bench really serve to overpower the years and years of success he brought to Old Trafford? Of course not and for all the wayward passes and individual errors, there is a world-class goal to happily reminisce upon. It is for these very reasons that Rooney is criminally and sadly underappreciated.
One of the bulkiest arguments against Rooney is his performances for England or, rather, his lack of them. It’s true that the 31-year-old hasn’t delivered the goods at a major tournament since Euro 2004, but name a player who has. Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes are two players bathing in plaudits and rightfully so, yet neither produced the goods at a World Cup or European Championship.
Does that make Scholes a bad player? No he is a Manchester United and England legend and so is Rooney. Perhaps it is the good old retirement bias at play here again and it truly is a cruel mistress.
With 119 caps and 53 goals though, arguing that Rooney’s legacy is unraveled by his England showings is borderline lunacy. It must be wondered what more the forward could have done when he’s racked up more goals than anyone before him. That’s 145 years of English international, but there’s been no one as prolific and ruthless across decades than Rooney.
While the end may be nigh and the 31-year-old is a far cry from his finest days, Manchester United and England fans must extend an arm. This a man who has shown unprecedented courage and passion for the cause, with silverware to burn and formidable goal scoring records. Let’s not allow these frustrating few months to overshadow a super career.
You may not like him, you may not rate him, but Rooney is a world-class player and his records will stand the test of time. The statistics don’t lie.
Kobe Tong, YJA Senior Correspondent