There are two goals out of the current total of 248 which Wayne Rooney has scored for Manchester United that belong in every fan’s top five Rooney goals.
The first is that unforgettable bicycle-kick at Old Trafford in the 2011 Manchester derby that secured United all three points in a 2-1 win over their increasingly noisy neighbours. The second was a goal that brought United back from 0-1 down at Old Trafford against Newcastle United back in April 2005.
United would go on to win that game 2-1 thanks to a first league goal for Wes Brown but it was the young Rooney who stole the show after a remarkable volley from 25 yards out that rocketed into the top corner.
What is striking from the super-goal against Newcastle is that seconds before the goal Rooney can be seen arguing with the referee before he sees the ball dropping, like a gift from the sky.
The then 19 year-old duly accepts the invitation and proceeds to take his frustration out on the innocent ball, thundering a sumptuous strike into the goal that brought gasps from everyone watching.
It is widely accepted that Rooney has always played his best football when he has been on the edge. The former Everton-man is a stereotypical English street footballer, perhaps the last of his kind at the top level with the footballing world of today becoming increasingly obsessed with structuring young players’ development and play-time.
Rooney’s fiery temperament has, on many occasions, brought out the best of him on the pitch but in recent years this red-zone (not the same red-zone as Arsene Wenger’s) has been toned down. It is understandable that a 31-year-old husband, father and captain of both club and country mellowed on the pitch as he sought to set an example to young players and viewers. However, many would agree that it is this taming of Rooney that has damaged his game over the past few seasons.
After the reports of Rooney’s alleged visit to a wedding while on (or off) England duty appeared in the press, the United No.10 has not only hit back at the media for their continual negative portrayal of him but he has also responded on the pitch with some passionate responses to refereeing decisions, wild gesticulation and more importantly some solid performances.
On Wednesday night against West Ham, Rooney arguably gave his best performance for United for a long time, orchestrating the play from a No.10 role that is still the position which best suits him.
The yellow card he received for petulance in the second-half was, according to commentators, not the brightest thing to do but for United fans it could be a clear sign that there is still some fight left in a player who had seemingly accepted a diminished role as the final years of his career loomed large.
A born again Rooney should be embraced and welcomed by the Old Trafford faithful as the club continues its search for players who are going to take responsibility and lead the club back to the top. Rooney will never be the same player that he was five or ten years ago, but with this new boost of passion that has returned to his game, United fans might witness a mini Rooney-renaissance in the coming weeks and months.