Be it a movie, an album or a new player, long awaited debuts often turn out to be not as good as expected, leaving fans with a bittersweet taste in their mouths and a feeling of “It was good but not as good as I thought,” in their minds. At times though, debuts are stunning, breath-taking affairs that exceed the wildest expectations.
Old Trafford, 28th September 2004, Manchester United face Fenerbache in the Champions League, one name and one name only is on everybody’s lips before the game…….Wayne Rooney.
7 years and 158 goals on, the same name is being chanted around Old Trafford week after week.
United in 2004 were a team in transition, a young Portuguese, wonderfully talented, had replaced Beckham, but he was far from being the finished article while Van Nistelrooy, Alan Smith and Saha battled for two spots up front. United had just won the FA Cup, but with Arsenal Invincibles and the advent of Mourinho, the future looked rather bleak for what was a frankly slightly mediocre side.
Rooney’s signature was seen as a breath of fresh air and, following his stunning hat-trick debut (a feat not achieved by many United legends), he finished his first season at United claiming the PFA Young Footballer of the Year award, but tasted defeat as United lost against Arsenal in one of the most one-sided FA Cup finals ever.
Acclaimed as England’s best footballer since Gazza, and burdened with a reputation of being a bully on (and some say off) the pitch, Rooney has never been shy of controversy during his career and after being sent off against Portugal as England crashed out of the 2006 World Cup, the media were quick to write off United’s chances in the following season, due to an alleged riff between Rooney and Ronaldo who was, apparently, responsible for getting his club team-mate sent off.
The response is well known as Rooney and Ronaldo, both finally matured as players, clicked as United stormed to a first title in three years, playing exhilarating football throughout the 2006-07 campaign, which was followed by a league and Champions League double in 2008 and by another title in 2009.
With the departure of Ronaldo, Rooney almost single handedly carried United to within a whisker of a fourth consecutive league title in 2010, before injuring his ankle against Bayern Munich in what proved to be a crucial point of United’s season, as without their talismanic striker they faltered and lost their crown to Chelsea.
Rooney’s life has been turbulent at times, with alleged visits to brothel and claims of infidelity towards his wife but, even by his standards, October 2010 was an explosive matter. Out with an ankle injury, he publicly stated his desire to leave the club as he felt it was “lacking ambition” sparking a furious reaction by a number of fans accusing him – and probably rightly so – of being nothing more than a mercenary, of having betrayed the club and, most of all, Fergie, while others considered Rooney’s outburst as the only way to force the Glazers to show their willing to economically back up the club in the transfer market.
Whatever the reasons, it’s hard to forget the look on Sir Alex’ face, a broken man announcing that “the boy wants out, and we can’t understand why. We can’t believe it.”
United fans are, we all know it, a quite unforgiving bunch and Rooney’s return to the team was welcomed with jeers and boos by some sections of the Old Trafford faithful particularly because Rooney’s form was so poor compared to the previous season that he looked like to be the one lacking ambition.
Most, if not all, of his problems were forgotten after his wonder goal against City last year. With the score level at 1-1, Rooney produced an incredible bicycle kick to win the derby and send Old Trafford into pure bedlam. Wazza has scored some unforgettable goals (against Newcastle in 2005, Middlesbrough in the FA Cup 2006, Bolton in 2007, the list is endless) but this goal stands head and shoulders above the rest, for the quality and the importance as well as for the circumstances that surrounded it.
Hate him or love him, Wayne Rooney is definitely United’s best player and, while the word legend might make some fans cringe after last year’s fiasco, he’ll probably be remembered as one of the greatest United players. In terms of talent, he’s already up there with the best.
We’re giving away two copies of the newly released ‘Goal Machine’ DVD that features Waynes first 150 goals for United. One copy will go to one lucky winner who follows us on Twitter @Red_Rants, the other will be won by someone from our friends list on Facebook. If you’re not already following or Liking us head over their and press the right buttons….you might just get lucky! You can find out more about the DVD here at the ManUtdStore.Com