10. WAYNE ROONEY
|Birthdate:||24 Oct 1985|
|Joined United:||31 Aug 2004|
|United Debut:||28 Sept 2004 v Fenerbahce (H)|
Wayne Rooney burst onto the Old Trafford stage in September 2004, netting an unforgettable hat-trick against Fenerbahce on his debut.
Perhaps his performance wasn’t that surprising, given the enormous pedigree he had amassed since making a lasting impression on now-Academy manager Paul McGuiness some years previous. In an Under-9 match between United and Everton, McGuiness remembers. “Rooney scored the perfect bicycle kick, which for a kid of eight or nine years old was really something special.” It merely hinted at what was to follow and, of course, it was a trick he would repeat on the biggest of stages in the Manchester derby to net a goal that will be repeated forever more. By the end of the 2004/05 campaign, his first in a Red shirt after signing from boyhood club Everton, Rooney had amassed 17 goals in 43 appearances, and was rightly named PFA Young Player of the Year. Rooney’s second season at Old Trafford again saw him take huge strides. He ended the season with 19 goals in 48 matches and was voted both Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year by fans and PFA Young Player of the year (again) by his fellow professionals. The young striker openly aims to better his goal tally each season and, despite a difficult World Cup with England in 2006, Rooney went on to net 23 times for United as the Reds lifted the Carling Cup and a first English title in three years. Cristiano Ronaldo stole all the headlines in 2007/08, but Rooney chipped in with another 18 goals, a tally that included three league braces and four goals in Europe. His exciting strike partnership with 19-goal Carlos Tevez was one of the key factors in the Reds’ Premier League and Champions League double triumph and cemented his iconic status at Old Trafford. But it’s not just Wayne’s goals that endeared him to the United faithful. A tireless worker, Rooney always gives 100 percent and can’t stand losing. They are traits that have, from time to time in the past, landed him in hot water, but everybody recognises his immense passion and will to win. The striker’s ability to adapt is an attribute often overlooked. Although most at home leading the line or playing just behind a main striker, Rooney also delivered sparkling displays from out wide on numerous occasions. With pace to burn and an eye for a long, raking pass, Rooney’s just as effective creating chances as he is taking them. That said, goals are Rooney’s bread and butter and not even the arrival of Dimitar Berbatov at Old Trafford in September 2008 could diminish Rooney’s potency. Indeed, the pair forged a strong partnership up front and, in January 2009, Wayne embarked on a scoring run that saw him net in five consecutive league games. A month earlier, he stole the show in Japan as United lifted the FIFA Club World Cup, thanks to his winner in the final and a brace off the bench in the semi. There was more success to follow in 2008/09 as the England striker picked up his third league winners’ medal with the Reds in May. Sadly, however, Rooney and United couldn’t add another European title as Barcelona ran out victorious in the Champions League final in Rome. The striker began the 2009/10 campaign in fine fettle, netting in the Reds’ opening two games against Chelsea, in the Community Shield, and Birmingham City in the league. Another energetic display from Rooney followed in the 5-0 thrashing of Wigan at the DW Stadium on 22 August during which he fired his 100th and 101st goals for the club. Come May, that tally was 131 as Rooney enjoyed his best ever season in front of goal and, at times, appeared to steer the Reds almost single-handedly through both domestic and European waters. And all as an out-and-out centre-forward. His 2009/10 feats were rewarded with a clutch of individual honours, including the PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards. Rooney had always displayed remarkable promise: now he had proved the hype was more than justified. What’s more, in October 2010 he penned a new five-year deal, guaranteeing his long-term United future. And while the striker didn’t reach anything near top form until the second half of 2010/11, his contribution to the Reds’ record-breaking 19th league title was undeniable. When it mattered most, Rooney was there to bang in the goals and drive United towards glory. He dragged Sir Alex’s men back from 2-0 down to net a hat-trick in United’s 4-2 win at West Ham, was instrumental in the win against Chelsea at Old Trafford and kept his nerve to slot home the penalty at Ewood Park that ultimately clinched the title. United’s number ten continued his role as talisman into the 2011/12 season, forming a formidable partnership with loan-returnee Danny Welbeck. Some would say that he fired United through the season in a similar vein to that of 2009/10, always producing goals at key moments. Wayne notched up 34 of them, which took him ahead of United legend George Best in the table of most prolific United goalscorers, his tally at the time of writing stands at an impressive 181 with only Jack Rowley, Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton ahead of him. Charlton’s record, which had hitherto looked impregnable, now stands on less steady ground. With Rooney only 26 years of age and yet to reach the peak of his career, it would take a brave man to bet against him overtaking one of the most famous footballers ever to play the game. Shinji Kagawa’s arrival in 2012 threatens to influence the role in which Rooney will perform but, after turning his hand to a deeper midfield brief in the previous year, nothing will faze the Merseysider nor diminish his value to the cause. As is so often the case, the hype around his involvement with England at a major championship, followed by the all-to-familiar exit, led to many suggesting he will return from the break with a point to prove. In truth, he scored one goal in two games – his suspension for kicking out during the qualifier in Montenegro, totally out of keeping with a virtually flawless campaign in terms of discipline, was always going to affect his input – and also converted his spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out with typical panache. Hence, there will be no worries among the United faithful that he will be at his brilliant best again when he pulls on the red shirt.