|A teenage Wayne Rooney wheels away to celebrate one of his debut goals|
On Wednesday evening, Old Trafford will pay homage to their captain, Wayne Rooney for more than a decade of service. The subject of Wayne Rooney has remarkably sustained the contr
oversy from that August day in 2004 when Manchester United agreed an eye watering (at the time) 28m with a Merseyside club for a teenage Scouser. Indeed, Sir Alex had this to say about the United board's initial reaction to the transfer;
''There were plenty of eyebrows raised"
True to script, a teenage Rooney scored thrice on his debut in a Champions League group stage game with Turkish side Fernabache. That hattrick set him on his way to breaking the club's goal-scoring record held by Sir Bobby Charlton--a feat he will undoubtedly achieve before Christmas this year. At 18 years and 335 days, he became the youngest player to score a hattrick in the Champions League.
Not that it was all glorious in his first campaign. Indeed, Wayne endured three barren years by United's standards as the club has bettered on the pitch by first Arsene Wenger's invincibles and then Jose Mourinho's rampant Chelsea side. The tough start did not hinder Wayne from creating personal marks in the club's history that fans can always look back on with fondness. There was that wonder strike against Newcastle United at Old Trafford when he transitioned from having a go at the referee to thundering one in the top corner. And then there was the 'Battle of the Buffet' in October 2004.
Forget the job Phil Neville did on Jose Antonio Reyes; Wayne Rooney turned out to be the real thorn for Arsenal on that October evening. In a fixture that had become synonymous with cheating and bullying of all sorts, Wayne did well to tumble inside the penalty box under the slightest of challenges from Sol Campbell. Ruud van Nistelrooy converted. The teenager then swept in the insurance goal in the 90th minute to end English football's longest unbeaten run in top flight football. It's safe to say Arsenal as a football powerhouse by those standards have never recovered since.
His first season was to end in the disappointment of an FA Cup Final defeat to Arsenal and it was not until last season that he was able to scratch that particular itch. He did however, finish his first campaign with United as the club's top league scorer with 11 goals and the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
Last season's FA Cup medal was only the latest in a career littered with silverware for the club. Whilst he was made to wait for his first major honour, in the form of a 2006 League Cup triumph over Wigan Athletic, they came in in quick succession afterwards.
He as only 21 when he won the first of his five premier league titles with Manchester United in 2007. Indeed, the speed at which he came of age on the pitch is highlighted by the fact that at age 22, he was on 200 premier league appearances and an integral part of United's Champions League winning team in 2008.
And then there was the temper. Sir Alex Ferguson claimed that it was an essential ingredient to being Wayne Rooney. He loved the aggression and he felt if it were coached out of him, he'd lose his footballing gifts. As such, United had to contend with the consequences of his temper. In September 2005, Rooney was sent off in a Champions League clash against Villarreal for sarcastically clapping the referee. More bemusingly, he got himself sent off in a pre-season tournament in 2006 for elbowing FC Porto's Pepe. The bemusing part is the FA received a 23 page report of the incident and handed him a 3 match ban despite a lack of jurisdiction over the matter.
Rooney's most productive season for the club was the 2009/10 season. He started the season by becoming the 20th Manchester United player to score 100 goals for the club, netting twice in a 5-0 away win at Wigan Athletic.
Injury curtailed his ability to inspire United to major silverware that season but he did pick up the League Cup, scoring the winner in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Wembley. His 26 goal haul in the league earned him the PFA Player of the Year award.
He matched the scoring heights of 2010 in 2012 with another 34 goal campaign even though the title ended up in another Manchester trophy cabinet.
More than anything, United fans love longevity and consistency. Like Ryan Giggs, his ability to remain relevant to the club, even today, marks him out as a club legend. That longevity is essentially why he is going to break the club's goal-scoring record despite not often ending up as the club's top scorer every season.
Love him or hate him; it is admirable that last season under the straight-jacket routine of Louis van Gaal was the only season that Wayne has failed to hit double figures in terms of league goals for the club in a season.
Whilst his loyalty to the club's cause has been thrown into disrepute twice by engineering a move away from the club, his determination to get United on the right side of a result has remained apparent whenever he is on the pitch.
The debate around whether he is truly a world class talent raged on as he collected milestone after milestone. At age 27, he scored his 200th goal for the club in a Champions League tie with Bayer Leverkusen. His incredible bicycle kick that won the Manchester derby in 2011 was voted as the Premier league's best goal on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the competition in 2012. Speaking post match about the goal, Sir Alex said;
''It was stunning. Unbelievable. We've had some fantastic goals here but in terms of execution....you'll never see that."
Now the club captain, Rooney has emerged as a leader and example for the younger players at the club. He might not be as marauding and ferocious as he was back in his early years, but he retains a goal-scoring ability that new manager Jose Mourinho seeks to exploit this season. Who knows, the captain's goals might yet inspire the club to another league title!
Wayne Rooney will donate proceeds from his testimonial on Wednesday to four Charities of his choice.