Wayne Rooney has finally left Manchester United to rejoin boyhood club Everton.
When he was unveiled as a United player on the final day of the 2004 transfer window, Sir Alex Ferguson – a man who knows a thing or two about the game – could barely contain his excitement. “I think we have got the best young player this country has seen in the past 30 years,” he said.
To hear that from one of football’s greatest managers would be considered too much for even the most seasoned of players. But in true Wayne Rooney fashion, he saw it as a challenge and delivered.
The 18 year old from the wrong end of the M62 went on to do the unthinkable, scoring a Champions League hat-trick on his debut.
As he slid on his knees under a floodlit Old Trafford, Wayne Rooney set the tone for his Manchester United career. There was passion, desire and raw, physical talent. Moments of brilliance across years of consistently high-level performances followed.
With 559 appearances and 253 goals, Rooney’s £30m transfer more than paid for itself over the course of 13 years. A scorer of many iconic and important goals, including a thunderbolt against Newcastle, that bicycle kick in the last moments of the Manchester derby, and a host of cup final goals, Rooney will be considered a United legend for many fans for years to come.
Yet despite his achievements and countless trophies, with May’s Europa League triumph completing his collection, there are some who dispute whether he is worthy of legend status.
There are a few pre-requisites to be considered a legend for Manchester United, regardless of how long you have been at the club.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær doesn’t appear on the club’s official legends page, yet fans still chant his name to this day. Why? Not just because of the winning goal he scored in the ‘99 Champions League final, but because he clearly held the club in high regard.
Over the years, Rooney’s United career has been filled with controversies from his off-field antics to his multiple transfer requests.
At 31, his alarming drop in form over the last few seasons has caused fans to question his fitness levels, with many believing the move should have come before now.
But while other players considered legends like Ronaldo have come and gone, it’s easy to forget that for most of his career, Rooney sacrificed his many talents for the good of the team and pushed himself further than any other player.
Some will argue that he didn’t fulfil his potential. But if being the all-time top scorer for your club doesn’t make you a legend, what does?
Where does Wayne Rooney rank among Manchester United’s legends? Let us know in the comments below.