Wayne Rooney at Manchester United: The highs of a record-breaking career

Quick Reads

Wayne Rooney won 12 major honours in 13 years at Manchester United – and it’s fair to say there were plenty of individual high points along the way. 

Rooney won five Premier League titles, two League Cups, the Champions League and Club World Cup under Sir Alex Ferguson before adding an FA Cup, a Europa League and another League Cup to his collection in his final years at the club.

He also left Old Trafford as United’s record goalscorer of all time. Not bad.

Starting with a bang

It all began back in 2004 when the then 18-year-old joined United for a world-record fee for a teenager after starring for England at the European Championship.

Sir Alex Ferguson declared: “I’m very excited, I think we’ve got the best young player this country has seen in the past 30 years.”

After his debut in a red shirt brought a hat-trick in a Champions League clash with Fenerbahce, Fergie’s faith seemed very justified.

“We all knew he was good, but this was absolutely frightening,” wrote The Guardian’s Rob Smyth.

But Rooney was just getting started.

Individual recognition

Things have never been plain sailing for Rooney, and his debut campaign with the Red Devils ended ultimately trophyless.

However, there were plenty of reminders of Rooney’s freakish talent, namely his thunderous volley against Newcastle, as he was named PFA Young Player of the Year.

First trophy

Rooney’s first trophy would follow in his sophomore campaign in Manchester as he scored a brace in a 4-0 victory over Wigan in the League Cup final, but it was in 2006-07 when Fergie’s side began to dominate English football once again.

With Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo at the forefront of the team – both players ended the season with 23 goals – United won the title for the first time since 2003.

The Red Devils also reached the Champions League semi-finals, with Rooney confirming himself as a world-class performer with a brace in a 3-2 first-leg victory over eventual winners AC Milan.

Fearsome front three

The next season would arguably be the pinnacle of Rooney’s career.

Ronaldo may have grabbed all the headlines with 42 goals in all competitions but Rooney, often selflessly operating from the wing for the benefit of the team, still contributed 18 goals, with a further 10 assists coming in the league.

United went on to win both the Premier League title and Champions League, pipping Chelsea to both crowns as Rooney, Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez formed one of the most fearsome front threes to have graced English football.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Goals, goals, goals

Twenty goals, a third consecutive title, Club World Cup and another League Cup victory followed in 2009, but Rooney and co. could not retain their Champions League crown and were outplayed by Barcelona in the final.

With Ronaldo leaving for Real Madrid in the summer, the question was how United could possibly replace the Portuguese’s goals. Rather than turn to the transfer market, Rooney stepped up to enjoy his most prolific season, scoring 34 times in all competitions.

After another brace against AC Milan in a 3-2 victory at the San Siro in the Champions League, Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport noted: “Milan creates, Rooney destroys. Milan dominated the encounter but still suffered defeat, mainly because of Rooney, the English phenomenon.”

Silencing the noisy neighbours

As Manchester City started to become known as the ‘noisy neighbours’ in 2010 Rooney ensured United remained the team to beat in England.

With possibly his most famous goal for the club, his stunning overhead kick proved the inspiration in a 2-1 derby victory, and United would go on to claim the title by nine points.

Brief hope against Barca

Yet again United were outplayed by Barcelona in the final of the Champions League, but fittingly it was Rooney who briefly gave his side hope with an excellent goal at Wembley.

A new partner

Another prolific season followed in 2011-12 with Rooney matching his haul of 34 goals, albeit in a trophyless campaign.

And while Robin van Persie became the catalyst for the title win in Fergie’s final season, as he had done for Ronaldo, Rooney operated as the perfect foil with 16 goals.

The Dutchman’s outstanding volley against Aston Villa in the win which secured the title perfectly encapsulated the duo’s profitable partnership.

Life after Fergie

United and Rooney endured difficult times following the retirement of Ferguson, but the forward continued to provide moments of inspiration.

With David Beckham watching on from the stands, Rooney took a leaf out of the former England captain’s book with his goal from the halfway line at Upton Park.

Final trophies

Surprisingly, it took until after Ferguson had retired for Rooney to win his maiden FA Cup triumph, under Louis van Gaal, with another League Cup success coming under Jose Mourinho the following season.

And in January 2017 Rooney wrote his name into the United record books, becoming the club’s all-time top scorer, with the landmark goal coming in suitably spectacular fashion.

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Iconic debuts: Wayne Rooney’s hat-trick against Fenerbahçe, 2004