After bursting onto the scene as a physical, tough and precocious 16-year-old, Manchester United splashed an estimated £27 million on a player that would go on to become one of the club’s all-time greats.
The teenage prodigy became Everton’s second-youngest goal scorer and announced himself to the league when scored a last-minute winner against Arsenal to end the Gunners’ 30-match unbeaten streak.
Hailed as an incredible talent by Arsene Wenger, unlike most teenagers, Rooney was already playing consistent first-team minutes for David Moyes’ Everton as he made 71 appearances for the club in just two seasons.
While Rooney was making waves in England with his performances for Everton, it was at Euro 2004 that the young forward showed just how good he was. In an England team littered with talent, Rooney was the talisman of the squad and if he hadn’t picked up an injury against Portugal, England may have won the tournament.
Following the tournament, Alex Ferguson made Rooney the most expensive teenager in the world and made him the forefront of his Manchester United rebuild. At a time where Arsenal had The Invincibles and Chelsea were now under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, Ferguson needed a focal point to take Man U into a new era and Rooney was just that.
Although Man United failed to win any silverware in Rooney’s first season, the young England forward was already showing that the step up to Man U was not going to be a problem.
Under Ferguson, Rooney would go on to become one of the best players in the world and become England’s best player. Although he may not have been scoring a heavy load of goals, in tandem with Christiano Ronaldo, Rooney would go on to lead Man U to three consecutive Premier League titles and a Champions League.
Following Ronaldo’s departure, Rooney was once again made the leading light for Ferguson’s team and led the team in the latter stages of Ferguson’s time. He would go on to continue to prove that he was one of the best strikers in Europe as he would score 26 goals in the 2009/10 season and two years later, 27 in 34 games in the league.
United were entering an era where Manchester City’s new money was beginning to wash into the league. Although Rooney would once again play a key role in bringing yet another title to Manchester United in 2013 – Ferguson’s last – his star began to fall rapidly.
Once able to bully opposition defenders, Rooney was shifted further back into midfield and eventually into a role where his influence began to wane. Although towards the end of his Man U career Rooney was nowhere near the player he once was, he was still the perfect player for Man United and one that helped the club maintain their prominence.
A player that won everything at one of the biggest clubs in the world, who also finished as the club’s all-time top scorer and England’s, Rooney must still be remembered as one England’s great superstars.