10 years ago, transfer deadline day August 2004 saw Wayne Rooney eventually arrive at Old Trafford – The Theatre of Dreams – and sign for the club with literally only minutes to spare before the summer transfer window closed. However, the drama in the boardroom was nothing compared to the drama that was about to follow on the football pitch, with the kid from Croxteth determined to play his part in shaping Manchester United’s immediate future. His debut arrived a few weeks later in a Champions League game before a packed and expectant Old Trafford crowd, where the most expensive teenager in English football history strode on to the hallowed turf like a gladiator before the emperors of Rome.
Since then, Wayne has gone on to experience many highs with the club, and on the 10-year anniversary of his arrival Wayne has given an exclusive interview to WayneRooney.com where he reminisced about the last decade.
Wayne signed for United in August 2004 at the age of 18 in a deal worth £25.6 million, which was the highest fee ever paid for a player under 20 years old. The transfer was a sure sign of his potential, but it didn’t take him long to make his mark at the club.
On his debut for United against Fenerbahce, Wayne incredibly scored three times in a 6-2 win. In doing so, he became the youngest player to score a hat-trick in the illustrious competition. “To score a hat-trick on my debut was something dreams are made of!” Wayne said. “I was quite nervous before the game as I hadn’t played for some time due to an injury I picked up playing for England in the 2004 European Championships in Portugal. But after walking out at Old Trafford for such a massive game, the welcome I received from the fans that night settled me down and I felt a strange calm come over me. I knew I was going to score, but never for one minute did I think I would end the night with the match ball, scoring a debut hat-trick in my first ever Champions League game.”
He ended his debut season at Old Trafford by being named the PFA Young Player of the Year. On his way to achieving that, however, he scored one of the Premier League’s goals of the season in United’s home game against Newcastle. Moments after talking to the referee, Wayne latched onto a Newcastle defender’s clearance with an extraordinary volley. “The Newcastle goal will always be one of my favourites because of the type of goal it is,” Wayne said. “I remember in that split second, just deciding to hit it as hard as I could. Luckily it ended up in the back of the net! It was a good job as I had been playing with a dead leg and I had a feeling the manager was about to take me off.”
The following season, Wayne was in impressive form and was voted the PFA Young Player of the Year by his fellow professionals. The 2006 Carling Cup final was undoubtedly one of the many highlights that year, as he scored twice in a man-of-the-match performance as United defeated Wigan 4-0. “Winning the PFA Young Player of the Year was such an honour as all my fellow pros had voted for me, but all I could think was ‘I hope I don’t have to make a speech’,” Wayne said. “But the most important piece of silverware that season was definitely winning the League Cup. It was my first professional trophy and I feel looking back, it was the platform for that team to go on and win perhaps bigger and more important trophies.”
Wayne made 55 appearances in all competitions for United in the 2006/07 season, which currently remains the most he has made in a single campaign. His massive effort was eventually rewarded with a worthy prize: his first Premier League winner’s medal. “Winning the Premier League is the stuff dreams are made of as a kid,” Wayne said. “The first time I won it I couldn’t believe it. Winning the Premier League knowing you’ve gone through a long hard season and ended up as champions of your country is an incredibly difficult thing to achieve once, but thankfully we have gone on to win that trophy another four times in my time with the club to date and there is no doubt that each time you do it, the feeling just keeps getting better and better.”
Wayne went from winning the biggest domestic competition for the first time in 2007 to winning the biggest European competition for the first time the following season. The first-ever all-English Champions League final took place in Moscow, as United defeated Chelsea on penalties to clinch the club’s third European Cup. Having also helped the side win the title to retain their Premier League crown, 2008 was a momentous year of Wayne’s Old Trafford career. “I will never ever forget that night in Moscow,” Wayne said. “It is the pinnacle of a professional footballer’s club career. The fact we achieved it against one of our toughest domestic rivals – Chelsea – only made the moment sweeter. I can still see the manager now absolutely soaked to the skin and his glasses covered in rain drops so badly that he couldn’t see properly, but you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face – it was as wide as the Mersey. I know he was so proud of that team that night, and that smile is one of my fondest memories of him.”
“The season following our Champions League final win against Chelsea the team had started to break up and the manager came to me at the start of the season and said ‘I want you to take more responsibility and play up front as an out-and-out centre forward.’ I was grateful for the opportunity and was confident I could succeed in the role. I feel I repaid the manager’s faith scoring 34 goals that season.” Wayne was named 2010’s PFA Player of the Year after his remarkable season, where he had lived up to his early signs of promise in a major way. Having consistently found the net, scoring more times than he ever had in a single campaign. He would impressively match that tally two years later.
When it comes to picking his favourite goal, Wayne has hundreds to choose from. The one that stands out most of all for him, though, is his late winner in the February 2011 Manchester derby that displayed great acrobatic ability. To support his decision, the goal was described by Sir Alex Ferguson as the best he had ever seen at Old Trafford. “My favourite ever goal for Manchester United is the overhead against City,” Wayne said. “I know the type of goal was special, but what made it for me was the occasion and how important the match was.” Not only did the goal help United achieve victory over their rivals, it also played a significant part in the club clinching a record-breaking 19th league title at the end of the season.
In November 2013, Wayne became only the fourth person to score 200 goals for United. It was the second of a double against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League that marked the achievement, one that he acknowledged was quite exceptional. “To join this special list of goalscorers means a lot,” said Wayne. “I want to go on to be the all-time top scorer for Manchester United if I can.” Later that season, United’s Premier League game against West Ham at Upton Park saw two spectacular things happen. Striking the ball from nearly 60 yards out, Wayne scored an incredible volley that marked his 211th goal for the club and put him joint-third on United’s all-time goalscorer list. He wouldn’t share the record for long, though, as his second of the game cemented his place on the list behind only Sir Bobby Charlton and Denis Law.
More recently, Wayne’s achievements for United were recognised by him being appointed as the club’s new captain. The awarding of the role showed a great amount of trust in him and was a major sign of just how far Wayne has come since he first arrived at Old Trafford. “It is a huge honour for me, and for my family, to be named captain of this great club,” Wayne said. “It is a role I will perform with great pride.”
Having broken plenty of records and on course to break even more, the last 10 years have been hugely successful for Wayne at Manchester United. It will be interesting to see what other achievements await him another decade down the line, especially as he now leads the club’s next generation.
Our time with Wayne was up all too quickly and it was time for him to jump in a car and travel south to join up with the England team as the newly appointed captain of his country, but we couldn’t resist asking him one more question before he left.
When asked what he predicts for the immediate future of the team, his answer, just like the man, came straight back at us. “I have played in many great United teams and been fortunate enough to play with great players throughout my time here,” Wayne said. “Some players have come and gone, but I have stayed and I am so glad. We are rebuilding at the moment, of that there is no doubt. But I look at the quality of players the manager is putting together and how hard the club is working to make sure we can buy the best players available, and I honestly feel we have the makings of a really successful team again. It may take time, but this club has a history of succeeding – it’s in its DNA – and I for one am excited about the possibilities.”
So there you have it, the future is bright and Wayne can’t wait to be involved in the history yet to be written in the name of Manchester United.
Written by Tony Davies
Copyright 2014 Stoneygate 48 Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.officialwaynerooney.com as the source.