Wayne Rooney has officially retired from playing football, allowing him to become the permanent manager of Championship side Derby County, where he has been given a two-and-a-half-year contract.
As messages of goodwill pour in towards the former Everton and Manchester United man from the wider football community ahead of the latest chapter of an incredible career in the game, we take a look at the moments that cemented Rooney’s status as a Premier League legend.
Wayne Rooney: Striker’s Greatest Premier League Moments
A Debut Stunner
“Remember the name.” That was the declaration made by ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley as a fresh-faced Wayne Rooney announced himself to the world in staggering fashion in October 2002.
Then a schoolboy aged just 16, Rooney had appeared as an 80th-minute substitute for David Moyes’s Everton side against Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal – the reigning Premier League champions and a seemingly-unbeatable team enjoying a 30-game unbeaten run.
What followed was quite remarkable. Rooney pulled a hopeful punt forward by team-mate Lee Carsley under control and advanced towards a retreating Gunners backline, before unleashing a long-range stunner that curled over England goalkeeper David Seaman and kissed the crossbar on its way into the net.
The champions’ unbeaten run fell, and Goodison Park exploded into pandemonium. Wayne Rooney had arrived.
A Maiden Premier League Title
The Goodison Park faithful saw their homegrown hero depart for Manchester United on transfer deadline day in 2004. Though some have never forgiven him for it, they realised that the £27 million fee shelled out by Sir Alex Ferguson’s side – then a world-record transfer for a teenager – was simply too good to turn down.
Although Rooney set the Theatre of Dreams alight from the moment he arrived at Old Trafford (who could possibly forget his Champions League hat-trick on his debut for the club against Fenerbahçe or his match-winning performance in the 2006 Carling Cup final?), the Premier League title would remain elusive for him until the 2006/07 season as Arsenal and Chelsea enjoyed repeated success.
The Croxteth-born striker would eventually get his hands on the trophy at the end of his sixth season in senior football. On a personal level, it was a highly productive campaign for Rooney, as his 14 goals and 12 assists in 35 league matches propelled Ferguson’s side to a first top-flight title for three years.
Manchester Derby Miracles
Two more Premier League titles would follow, plus a Champions League final victory over domestic rivals Chelsea in Moscow in 2008, before Manchester City would begin their ascent towards the upper echelons of the European game, fuelled by their Abu Dhabi ownership’s investment.
Rooney’s United would welcome their neighbours, who boasted the likes of former teammate Carlos Tevez in their ranks, to a hotly-anticipated Manchester Derby at Old Trafford in February 2011. The winning goal he scored to settle that particular contest, diverting a deflected cross into the box from Nani into the top corner with an acrobatic overhead kick, is described by Rooney himself as the best and most important of the 253 goals he scored for United.
By the time of his eventual departure from Old Trafford, Rooney had become the highest scorer in Manchester Derby history with 11 goals in the fixture.
Firing Manchester United Top of The Pile
Come the end of that 2010/11 season, Sir Alex Ferguson had achieved what he famously set out to accomplish upon his arrival as the club’s manager: knocking Liverpool off their perch.
Fittingly, it was a nerveless strike from Rooney that sealed it. United had come to Ewood Park for a crucial fixture with Blackburn Rovers in their penultimate game of the season.
Rovers had taken the lead in the game following an error of judgement by stand-in United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak, which had made the visitors’ task all the more complicated until they won a penalty in the 73rd minute.
Up stepped Rooney to smash the spot-kick past Paul Robinson and Manchester United had made history, 25 years after Ferguson had announced it as his overriding objective.
Firing Wayne Rooney Top of The Pile
Rooney would help United and Ferguson to another league title in 2013 before his importance to the side would gradually start to wane. Under the management of José Mourinho, he would see less and less action from the starting eleven and became accustomed to more time on the bench.
Rooney’s contributions, however, remained historically decisive. Having equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s record as the club’s top scorer during an FA Cup tie against Reading in January 2017, Rooney would claim the record as his own in typically spectacular circumstances in a league fixture away to Stoke City before the month was out. Emerging from the bench, the substitute whipped a dipping free-kick beyond the reach of Lee Grant to salvage a point in the 94th minute. More late drama, more club history.
Back With a Bang
Debut goals had already become something of a theme in Wayne Rooney’s career by the time he returned to boyhood club Everton in the summer of 2017.
Making his second Premier League debut for the Toffees in their season opener against Stoke, Rooney did not disappoint, duly arriving at the back post to score a fine header to win the game in first-half stoppage time.
Doing so set another record, this one for the longest gap between goals for the same team (4869 days) in Premier League history as the local hero marked his emotional return.
A Hat-Trick From Half-Way
Rooney’s final flourish would arrive in a league game against West Ham United in November 2017. He saved his first Everton hat-trick for the occasion and completed it with an outrageous lob over his close friend and former England colleague Joe Hart from 61 yards.
Remarkably, this was not the first time Rooney had scored against the Hammers from half-way, having done so for Manchester United in 2014. Repeating the trick in order to seal the match ball, however, made this one all the more special, and provided Rooney with yet another moment to savour before leaving the Premier League for MLS in July 2018.
The man himself will hope to provide us all with more unforgettable moments from now on, only this time from the technical area.
Wayne Rooney the manager. Remember the name.