On this day 13 years ago, a fresh faced, 16 year old kid named Wayne Rooney scored his very first premier league goal at Goodison Park vs an unbeaten Arsenal side which prompted the famous quote from Clive Tyldesley, “Remember the name, Wayne Rooney”.
Well it’s been 13 years and we certainly haven’t forgotten the name. In that time period Rooney has given us some great memories good and bad. From getting sent off in the 2006 World Cup to his unforgettable overhead kick in the Manchester Derby, Rooney has been through it all.
But 13 years on from “that” goal, Rooney scored a very different goal at Goodison Park over the weekend. The 29 year old did his best to latch onto an Ander Herrera through ball to score his second Premier League goal in 9 games. If you were to tell someone from 2002 that people would be surprised if Rooney scored a goal that wasn’t deflected off of his knee, they would think you are crazy. But that is how bad it has been for the Scouse born striker.The struggling Rooney has been a shadow of himself in the past 18 months. Whether he slows down the run of play with his awful first touch or giving the ball away leading to a counter attacking goal, this season has been unsatisfactory for Rooney. No matter where Van Gaal places him on the field, Rooney fails to grab games by the neck like he used to. The decline in his game is evident there is no denying that but the the manner in which it has is astonishing and surprisingly quick. The fans used to get out of their seats for the Rooney that scores the winner against A.C. Milan in a crucial Champions League tie, the Rooney that drives his team forward in games with his fiery energy, not the Rooney who gets applauded for scoring a deflected goal vs Sunderland.
Which makes me think, is the only reason Rooney is named in the starting lineup every week because he is the captain? Let’s say David de Gea is United’s captain, would Rooney get the same starts and playing time? Most likely the answer is no. We saw Van Gaal bench Memphis Depay over the weekend due to a string of poor performances in the league, so why can’t he do it to Rooney? Besides the obvious fact that the media who would attack Van Gaal endlessly like they did to Mourinho when he benched Hazard, there will be good to come of the decision. It will give Rooney the sense of competition once again. His whole career he has fought for his position whether it was against Van Nistelrooy, Berbatov, Chicharito, or van Persie. The captaincy has been him too comfortable, a feeling he’s rarely felt in his career. He knows no matter how bad he played, he will be in the starting 11 for the next game. With a crucial away tie vs CSKA Moscow in the Champions League on Wednesday and the derby on Sunday, it will be interesting to see how Rooney will fare.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : David Sanchez