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It seems like an eternity since a young, chubby Wayne Rooney announced himself on the big stage with that goal against Arsenal, ending their unbeaten run. Since then, a long and fruitful career has followed. 5 Premier League's, 3 League Cups, 1 FA Cup and a Champions League trophy. Not bad for a fat kid from Liverpool.
In his early years, Rooney has a robust forward with deceptive pace, power and incredible finishing ability both inside and outside the box. These attributes led to his inclusion at Euro 2004. This would be the tournament that defined Rooney for England. He became the youngest scorer in the competitions history, scoring a brace against Switzerland in England's second group game. The young Liverpudlian would go on to score another brace in their final group game against Croatia. He would later get injured in the quarter-final against Portugal, but his performances earned him a move to Manchester United.
Rooney didn't take long to endear himself to the Old Trafford faithful, scoring a hat trick on his debut in the Champions League against Fenerbahce. Along with Rooney's ability was a hot streak that would often get him sent off for rash moments of madness. Arguably, that fire was what made Rooney the player he was. That was his drive.
Over his career he formed many partnerships, with some of the best strikers and players of this generation; Tevez, Ronaldo and Van Persie to name a few. It was always suggested that Rooney couldn't play as a sole striker, because of his tendency to drop deep when starved of the ball. The irony is, his most productive seasons, in terms of goals, were when he was seen as the main man. In the 09/10 season, Rooney broke the 20 league goal barrier for the first time. The departure of Ronaldo meant that he had to step up, and that he did. The bald Rooney scored 26 league goals in 32 appearances. Only Drogba scored more than him that season. United did finish second behind Ancelotti's Chelsea, but that was arguably Rooney's best season.
The only other season Rooney broke the 20 league goal barrier was 10/11. This time, they did win the league. This was also the season he scored THAT bicycle kick against their noisy neighbours City. His 27 goals in 34 league games secured them their 19th league title and most importantly, put them one ahead of Liverpool. Rooney also enjoyed a decent Champions League campaign, 5 goals in 7 matches including one in the 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in the final.
From there on, it was a steady decline for the English forward. Goals were harder to come by. He did secure another league title riding the wave of Van Persie's goals. He did however become more productive for England. A career high of 8 goals in a calendar year for England came in 2014. The majority of them may have been in friendlies, but we'll forget that.
In 10-20 years, how will we look back at Rooney's career? We overrate English youngsters, but Rooney had the potential to be something really special. To say he's been a disappointment would be a disservice to him. 270 goals in 634 club appearances is a decent return. He's United's all time top scorer as well as England's. He's one of the best talents England has ever produced. I can't speak for the continent or the world, but in England, he is a legend. Respect the man. You can still banter him though. He's not immune to jokes!
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