By Andy Jones
- Wayne Rooney looks set for a return to Goodison Park
- How will he be remembered by Manchester United fans around the world?
With news gathering pace that club Captain Rooney will be reunited with Everton in the coming days, the question for many United fans is “how will you remember him”?
As the raw 18 year-old who scored a hat trick on his United debut, or as the lumbering 31 year old, with a heavy first touch, lack of pace and thinning hairline. Its a debate which divides opinion.
As a player, its hard to question his achievements.
The all time record goalscorer for both England and Manchester United, 5 Premier league titles, 1 FA cup, 3 League Cups, 1 Champions League, 1 Europa League and a FIFA World Club Cup.
But, if you asked any United fan to name their all time United XI, very few would name Rooney in the team.
Some of this must be out of frustration, when United signed him aged 18, he was the biggest prospect to come out of English football for a generation, tipped to be one of the best players in the world.
Did He Fulfil His Potential?
The facts are, he never fulfilled this potential.
In 15 seasons in the Premier league, for Everton and United, only once has he scored more than 20 league goals, and his season best is 34 goals in all competitions in the 09/10 season.
The best strikers in the world, Ronaldo, Suarez, Messi and Lewandowski are streets ahead. Ronaldo has only failed to score more than 30 league goals in 2 of his 8 seasons in Spain and has hit over 40 on 2 occasions.
It could be argued that Rooney’s career was always going to tail off much earlier than most premier league players. Thrown into a demanding league at the age of 16, he has already had a career spanning 15 years at the highest level, and that ultimately takes its toll on the body.
Watching him huff and puff in Michael Carrick’s testimonial was quite sad to see, when players like Patrice Evra, deemed surplus to requirements by Louis van Gaal, were breezing through the game.
Some United fans cruelly commented that Carrick’s brother had a better game than Rooney.
The issue with Rooney is that in the eyes of the supporters, he hasn’t acted like a true professional, with the desire to stay at the top of their game.
Stories of drinking and smoking, returning to pre-season training overweight, which famously led to him going to the USA with a conditioning coach.
In the 2012/13 he largely played second fiddle to Robin Van Persie, signed by Sir Alex to reclaim the Premier League crown.
Close To The Exit Door On More Than One Occasion
Towards the end of the season, Ferguson claimed that Rooney had handed in a transfer request, and the writing seemed to be on the wall for his career at Old Trafford.
When David Moyes took over, there were bids from several clubs, with Chelsea bidding £20m for the player.
Moyes stood firm, and eventually Rooney was offered a lucrative new deal, which turned out to be a noose around the clubs neck. For the next 3 seasons, Rooney continued to be a player in rapid decline.
Unable to influence games, struggling to return to full fitness from injury and largely being totally ineffective, not just for club, but also country.
He limped over the line to beat Bobby Charlton’s all-time goalscoring record, and finished last season with only 8 goals.
Jose Mourinho has handled this perfectly, almost allowing Rooney to play himself out of the squad with his own inept performances, both in midfield and attack.
With a return to boyhood club Everton seemingly likely, how will Rooney be remembered? a United legend, the fiery, quick aggressive player, or a good player but with unfilled potential, who lingered around a bit too long.
Probably the latter.