Farewell, then, Wayne. You will be missed. Or perhaps not. It’s difficult to gauge how well the former Manchester United striker is remembered and liked by fans but whatever side of the debate you sit on, there’s only one incontrovertible conclusion to reach: Wayne Rooney had a good run. The man had a brilliant career in the Premier League, and as time washes away and we’re all turned to dust, history will be kind to his legacy.
In case you haven’t heard, Rooney left Everton this week after signing a three-and-a-half year deal with MLS side D.C. United, bringing to an end his 16-year career in the Premier League. It has been evident that at, 32, Rooney isn’t quite the force of nature he once was. The pace is gone and so is the explosiveness; that ability to bring fire and potent force to a game as he so desired. It’s the reason he was back at Everton last summer in the first place: he was no longer fit for purpose at a club of United’s ambition.
There’s a little sadness here, too. In the middle of a World Cup where Gareth Southgate’s England are winning hearts and putting points on the board, Rooney, a veteran of three largely doomed campaigns, departs quietly from centre stage to the worst side in MLS. It is the same World Cup where Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney’s old mate and six months his senior, is shining brightly with four goals in three games.
But it would be uncharitable to view Rooney’s career solely through the lens of the latter years of his career, especially when the loss of pace is directly related to how he started his playing days like a house on fire. Rooney is not like most 32-year-olds in terms of his playing age. This is the man who took the game by surprise as a stocky 16-year-old with rage in his eyes and an incredible eye for goal. A man who scored a hat trick on his United debut. The goals and numbers bear witness to his greatness. 253 goals in 559 appearances for United, 28 in 118 for Everton and 53 in 119 for England. He is the record goalscorer for United and England, two of the most important institutions in world football. You do not achieve that by being a fraud. When Ronaldo was at his pomp during that glorious 2008/09 season, Rooney was the the dutiful teammate who willfully played out of position numerous times for the greater good.
As Rooney departs with no fanfare to the other side of the Atlantic, it should be remembered that when he was at his best, England had no answer to a player who could make magic happen all the while looking like your next door neighbour.