Wayne Rooney recently had his final hurrah for the England national side in a friendly victory against the US which acted as a passing of the torch in many ways. Rooney despite being England’s leading scorer of all time is often divisive.
You have to be fair to Rooney. He was England’s talisman for more than a decade. He was the first name on the team sheet and has had an illustrious career. Not just for England, but for Manchester United where he is also their record scorer, so he should be heralded as an Old Trafford legend too. But will he ever hold the same regard as George Best, Eric Cantona and CR7? Weirdly in some quarters, he won’t but given his achievements, this is baffling.
The nearly man?
I think that the reason he isn’t held in high esteem (and let me clarify this, I’m generalising – there are just as many UTD fans who worship him) is simply because despite what he did achieve there is a nagging feeling he could have done more. When Rooney first announced himself in the Premiership with that delicious finish against Arsenal for Everton it seemed like the world was his oyster. Comparisons were made between him and Paul Gascoigne. And the nickname “Wazza” was coined. In terms of raw potential, he was the most exciting player we had since Michael Owen. Many expected him to reach even higher heights than that. Fans truly believed that here was a player that could haul is into a golden age. A fearless player who could face the likes of Brazil, Argentina, and Germany and not wilt. But show the world that football was, at last, coming home.
Didn’t he do that?
Well, yes and no. there is no doubt that in qualifiers for national tournaments that Rooney was superb. But did he do it in major tournaments? Well, there was no doubt about his prowess way back in the 2004 euros when he plundered four goals. But since then, and baring in mind he was practically an ever-present, Rooney has just two goals in the euros and a singular world cup goal to his name. Not exactly world class! So what is the deal? Did the occasion get to Rooney?
Great players play when needed
Teams who win tournaments have players that stand up when things are grim. Look at Beckham in his pomp. When England needed a goal in the dying embers of the game he stepped up and delivered. At times he picked up the England team and carried them on his shoulders, he was the very embodiment of leading by example during his spell as England’s captain. You felt for a while that Rooney had that same passion but in Rooney’s case with that came aggression.
Did Fergie ruin Rooney
Right from the off Rooney had a petulance to him, a dark side that reared its head in matches. That aggression made him a warrior on the pitch but at times he was a liability. I think the reason Ferguson was so enamoured with Rooney is that he saw a lot of himself in the player. However, Fergie needed a player that was going to be around for an entire season. He moulded Rooney and leashed his temperament and I think in doing that he lost a bit of his free-spirited nature. Arguably Rooney played with the leash on for most of his later career. He became a far better team player but lost that spark that could have made him memorable. Unfortunately, I think because of this his legacy will always be debated. What can’t be is his record! I doubt anyone at Old Trafford will ever surpass him and maybe Harry Kane will for England but that remains to be seen. Whatever happens, Rooney deserved his England send-off.