Wayne Rooney has proven that peaking too early in your career can tarnish your long-term legacy.
The Manchester United forward set the world alight in his younger days but now under Jose Mourinho, we are looking at a player that is seemingly a long distance from greatness.
Two transfer requests and a number of lacklustre performances have had many Manchester United fans question Rooney’s commitment to the club on a regular basis. His early form at United proved to be the catalyst to their success in the late 2000’s but since October 2010, a major question has been hanging over the former Everton man’s head.
In 2004 came his big move to Manchester United. The Red Devils paid the money for the 18-year old, and he made a sensational impact on his debut by scoring a hat-trick against Fenerbahce in the Champions League. Rooney went on to contribute massively in the 04/05 and 05/06 seasons, scoring his fair share of goals and also winning the PFA Young Player of the Year on two consecutive occasions.
In the summer of 2009, Cristiano Ronaldo left for Real Madrid and Rooney became the main man at United. He was granted the duty of spearheading United to silverware after his departure and reached 100 goals for the club; his goal-scoring form almost inspired them to an unexpected League title. However, a season ending injury occurred and United fell apart without their talisman.
The wheels quickly fell off the bandwagon back in October 2010, when a week-long battle of wills saw Rooney come close to leaving for Manchester City before United’s American owners, the Glazer family, sanctioned a lucrative new contract for their prized asset. City had made an offer to Rooney’s representatives, which would see the player swap red for blue in the upcoming January transfer window – before United backed down and met Rooney’s wage demands.
The season ended with Rooney content with his demands being met by the club, but supporters remained undecided whether they could forgive their star-man. He also scored in the Champions League quarter-finals, the semi-finals and also in the final against Barcelona, as Manchester United eventually lost 3-1 at Wembley.
Rooney’s final season on the top of the tree came along in 11/12. Like his previous best season of 09/10, United would end the season without the league title. Then 26, Wayne claimed 27 goals throughout the season but it couldn’t topple Manchester City as they ended their 44 year search for a English league title.
Rooney has almost left United on another occasion, too. Chelsea were ready to take him away from Old Trafford in the summer of 2013 when Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager and claimed that Rooney had asked to leave.
Following speculation all summer, Rooney then penned a new contract worth a reported £300k-a-week in January 2014. It must be said, it was a clever financial move from the England international, who provided himself with a large say in his future.
Earning that sort of money Rooney would be almost guaranteed a starting position under David Moyes as he struggled to defend the title won in 2014. Also, if the club decided to part-ways with Rooney he could ultimately dig his heels in and refuse to leave the club unless a potential suitor was willing to match his record breaking wage.
A number of managers have used Rooney’s ability to benefit the team as he quiet often appeared as a left-winger and central-midfielder under Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes. This has surly damaged his reputation in an unselfish manner as his ability to find space in the box has become limited due to his responsibility in midfield.
Rooney has 193 Premier League goals and five league titles, but when you look deeper into the equation you will see a player who has played fifteen years at the top-flight of the game and scored an average of 12 goals a season. Some would argue that is a major disappointment for a player who burst onto the scene with the potential to become England’s greatest ever player.
Many United players in the past have won fewer medals than Rooney but have earned themselves the affection and love of the Old Trafford faithful more than the 31-year old. His form of late has shown why so many have lost faith in Rooney’s ability to succeed at the top. He is consistently referred to his past success rather that what he should be producing presently.
Was it the two requests to leave the club that he spend so many years representing that turned the tide for the Old Trafford faithful? His unselfishness to play in a number of positions? Or was it simply a player burnt out from achieving so much success too soon?
Whichever one answers the question is a mystery, but the fact remains that Wayne Rooney’s legacy at Manchester United has become a tarnished memory that is unlikely to be changed anytime soon.