When he’s not out living the good life and allegedly escorting young ladies home in their Volkswagen Beetles, Wayne Rooney has carved out a pretty decent career for himself as a professional footballer.
And if you are in the habit of making yourself aware of your own mortality as time hurtles on unabated, you might like to know that he made his professional debut for Everton almost 15 years ago to the day!
Yes, Rooney strode onto the Goodison Park turf like a hair-topped potato in October 2002 – five days shy of his seventeenth birthday, and boy what a debut it was.
Up against the unbeaten Arsenal (this was just prior to their Invincibles season, but not a million miles away), the sixteen-year-old picked up a wayward pass from Thomas Gravesen and plucked it out of the sky. Watched on by footballing heavyweights such as Pascal Cygan, Li Tie and Tomas Radzinski, Rooney curled a stunning shot into the top left-hand corner of the net – leaving David Seaman and his ponytail groping flaccidly at thin air.
On that day, a man became a boy. Here’s the video to remind us all of Wayne Rooney’s coming of age moment:
Fifteen years later and Rooney is still turning out as a rather-less-sprightly 31-year-old, and as befitting his ‘veteran’ status we thought we’d look back at the three best moments of his career to date:
THAT Manchester United Debut
It’s easy to forget that Wayne Rooney signed for Manchester United aged just 18; an age where most adolescents are picking spots and plucking up the courage to ask somebody else to ask out the girl they fancy while they hide coquettishly in the nightclub toilet.
But if there’s one thing that young Wazza specialised in, it was delivering quality debut performances….this one did not disappoint.
Fenerbahce were the opponents, Old Trafford was the venue and, not for the last time, the home faithful were on their feet applauding their hero before very long.
He scored not once, not twice but thrice – the third a delicious free-kick curled just beyond the desperate dive of Rustu. Not bad for your first 37 minutes wearing the famous red shirt.
— MUFC Republik (@MUFCRepublik) July 6, 2013
Observer writer Paul Hayward summed up Rooney’s United debut perfectly:
“No one has seen anything resembling Wayne Rooney’s Manchester United debut before…nothing in the dusty language of record books does justice to an 18-year-old who changed hands for £27 million while nursing a foot injury and announced his return by hitting a 37-minute hat-trick in his first game in a United shirt. In front of 67,128 people. In the Champions League.”
It’s one thing scoring against your ‘noisy neighbours’, it’s quite another to defy gravity and score one of the greatest goals the Premier League has ever seen.
But that’s exactly what Roo did in the 2010/11 campaign as United overcame their city rivals to move seven points clear at the top of the table.
At this point City were described as ‘noisy’ as they were just beginning to make waves following their sugar daddy cash investment, but Rooney and his teammates were in no mood to be swept aside.
The goal itself is a thing of beauty – a perfect overhead kick from a cross curling away from goal – and it is one that even if he plays until he’s 50, Rooney will surely ever surpass.
A Star is Born
It’s been a bit of a mixed bag for Wayne Rooney in an England shirt. While the team at large has rarely achieved anything of note, his personal journey as an international football has been remarkable. He is now his country’s all-time leading goalscorer, and that record could last for decades to come.
It all started for Rooney as a Three Lions player at Euro 2004 – and what a tournament he had. He bagged a brace against Switzerland in his country’s second group game, before tearing Croatia apart in the last; netting another two and looking like one of the finest young talents England has ever produced.
It turned pretty sour from that point on, as Rooney broke a bone in his foot in the quarter final against Portugal and England were knocked out on penalties. But anybody who saw the 18-year-old’s performances – especially against Croatia – knew they had witnessed something truly special.
The early signs suggest that Rooney’s present employer, Everton, are going to endure a tough season, and it would be a shame if Wazza bowed out on a low ebb after a sparkling career that has made this writer feel positively ancient recalling it.
But players of Rooney’s class and stature are worth their weight in gold, and there’s no doubt that England’s squad at World Cup 2018 would be boosted by having an experienced head like his in Russia.
You can find quotes of 12/1 on Gareth Southgate recalling the now-retired Rooney to his squad in 2018, and we dare say that might be worth a few pennies of your hard earned.