As I’m sure most people of the footballing persuasion are aware, Wayne Rooney broke Manchester United’s all-time goal-scoring record last weekend after netting his 250th goal for the club in a 1-1 draw with Stoke.
Rightly so, he has since received all sorts of plaudits from fans across the globe; Manchester United aficionados in particular have been heaping praise on the 31-year-old for his incredible achievement. And naturally, the word “legend” has been thrown around more in the last week than it has in years.
In my opinion, Wayne Rooney is not deserving of Manchester United legend status.
Obviously this sounds absurd—the man holds countless club records and has won an abundance of trophies, trophies which might not have been won without his brilliance. But these statistics are what make Rooney a Manchester United great, and there is a significant difference between a great and a legend.
What needs to be made clear is that I love Wayne Rooney as a player. He is one of the best footballers I’ve seen play at Old Trafford, he is most definitely one of my footballing heroes, and there is no denying that he is a fantastic player.
However, a Manchester United legend must not only be a fantastic player, but must also embrace the club as a genuine supporter. This is, for me, where Wayne Rooney cannot be called a club legend.
Think back to 2010, when Rooney handed in the first of his two transfer requests. He wanted to leave the club because he believed it lacked ambition; you can’t really argue with him when Cristiano Ronaldo—who was sold for £80million—had been replaced with Antonio Valencia and Gabriel Obertan.
His reasoning for wanting to leave the club is almost understandable, but the problem lies in the events which followed. Club rivals Manchester City had recently been taken over and were spending money for fun; when they saw an opportunity to buy Rooney, they announced they were willing to pay him anything to make the switch.
If the transfer had gone through, it would have signified a massive shift of power in both Manchester and in the Premier League. Wayne Rooney knew this very well. The striker ultimately exploited the opportunity to get more money out of Manchester United by flirting with one of the club’s biggest rivals, forcing the hand of the United board to double his earnings.
To play for Manchester United is the dream of millions across the globe. Wayne Rooney was there living that dream, earning nearly £100,000 per week to do it. But that wasn’t good enough for him, so he practically held the club to ransom. I don’t believe that anyone who does this can be deemed a legend of the club.
When David Beckham first joined Manchester United as a teenager, he’d go around cleaning senior players’ boots just so he could be involved—that is the making of a club legend.
When Sir Alex Ferguson retired, David Moyes gave Rooney an even bigger contract in addition to the club captaincy. But when has he ever acted like a club captain? To captain Manchester United is the ultimate privilege, but you only ever hear from Wayne Rooney when he’s got himself in trouble and needs to defend himself.
Recently, Rooney spoke to the press following the incident when he was caught out drinking. A couple of years ago, he came out and spoke to the press after a video went viral of him getting knocked out in his own kitchen.
Last season, when Manchester United had two Premier League games to go and needed to win them both to qualify for the Champions League over Manchester City, did Wayne Rooney come out and inspire the fans? Did he publicly come out and rouse his teammates to treat the remaining games as if they were cup finals? No, he didn’t.
Club captains like Roy Keane and Rio Ferdinand have on countless occasions come out in the press, firing up the the team because they cared deeply about the club.
You do not see that with Wayne Rooney. He is not a man that cares about the club as a fan, despite his undeniable brilliance as a player.
Thus, I don’t deem Wayne Rooney a Manchester United legend, although I can understand why so many people believe he is one.
However, what must be noted is that I am not the only person with this opinion. If one were to walk around Old Trafford on a matchday and ask Manchester United fans if they thought Wayne Rooney was a club legend, I think about 50% of people would object.
It’s obvious that there is generally a question mark over his status as a legend. And if a player can have such a question mark, is he really a legend? Probably not.