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Wayne Rooney’s goalscoring record is a rare piece of Manchester United history. Take notice.
In the modern game of football, major players come and go with regularity, their deeds on the pitch echoing in the seemingly infinite chambers of social media Tweets, gifs, and YouTube highlight reels until being lost in the endless stream of white noise. Yet few such deeds maintain their relevance for more than a few years, and only a handful earn a permanent impression among the football faithful.
Wayne Rooney knows all too well the toll it takes to survive in the top echelons of football: the adaptability required to outlast multiple managerial regimes and the persistence necessary to overcome the inevitable pitfalls, injuries, and subsequent doubts of the press. The Englishman has played many positions and filled many roles in a thirteen-year career at United, with varying degrees of success, but has finally found a permanent home in the Old Trafford record books by surpassing Bobby Charlton’s all-time goalscoring record for the Red Devils.
The statistics and records thrown about ceaselessly in the bubble of the Premier League can have a dulling effect, but Rooney’s record is rare, a tribute to both talent and perseverance; an artifact of a footballing era where legacy was as important as relevancy, achievable not by Twitter followers or nutmegs or highlight reel goals alone, but determination and ambition.
At a time when United are devoting more money than ever to short-term, big-name signings and inundating the internet with brand-enhancing hashtags and entertainment, this moment stands out as a truly memorable piece of United’s history.
“[It means] a hell of a lot,” said Rooney, per The Guardian. “It’s difficult at the moment to be over-pleased because of the result – two points dropped – but in the grand scheme of things it’s a huge honor for me. It’s something I never expected when I joined the club but I’m really proud and hopefully there’s a lot more to come.”
The thirty-one-year-old’s career has been building to this moment for years and the record-breaking two-hundred-and-fiftieth goal came in spectacular fashion, a superb, stoppage-time free-kick to rescue a point for United against Stoke City. It cements his legacy above the rest and, at a juncture in his career where his critics have begun to outweigh his admirers, was the perfect reminder of why he is still a valuable United player.
In comparison to Rooney’s seizure of a hallowed record, the Stoke result seemed trivial. Yet it was entirely in character for Rooney, even after such a momentous personal achievement, to talk largely in terms of the game at hand – two points dropped in the race for the Champions League and Premier League title. It’s a tone that speaks to the same ruthless consistency and pragmatism that earned him the record in the first place.
In a culture where new is often conflated with better, and agents earn their keep by moving top players from one European powerhouse to the next, it’s unlikely that Rooney’s record will be broken for decades to come. Long after the United year(s) of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford will fade from memory, the landmark figure will remain atop the podium, the ultimate testament to the Englishman’s loyalty, drive, and ambition. It might eventually be equaled (though the longevity of Charlton’s record suggests United’s next greatest-goalscorer hasn’t even been born yet), but never forgotten.
Homepage photo credit: Ian C [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons