Today marks the 19th anniversary of one of the most incredible debuts in football history.
On the 28th September 2004, 18-year-old Wayne Rooney stepped out under the Old Trafford floodlights and showed the world why the club had paid £27 million for him – a fortune in those days, especially for a teenager.
Rooney had been signed in the summer but was injured during Euro 2004 so was unable to start the season for United.
This delay added to the excitement, with fans and the player bursting with anticipation to see him finally unleashed in a red shirt.
And what an unleashing it was as the Red Devils faced up to play Fenerbahce in the Champions League Group D.
Wearing a shirt where the collar had to be ripped because it was too tight for his muscular young neck, the young star scored not just any hat-trick on that night, but one of the best hat-tricks you could ever wish to see.
First, he sprung the Fenerbahce offside trap and got on the end of a slotted through ball from Ruud van Nistelrooy and smashed it into the top corner of the net.
The second was arguably even better. Receiving the ball from Ryan Giggs around 25 yards out, Rooney feinted to created space for himself and drilled it hard and low past the hapless Turkish keeper.
He completed his hat-trick with a Beckham-esque curled free kick from the edge of the D that was simply unstoppable.
Teenage Wazza was simply sensational 🔥🔥🔥pic.twitter.com/0yoHkEX6RZ
— UnitedReds (@UnitedRedscom) September 28, 2023
United ran out 6-2 winners on the night but despite qualifying comfortably from their group, they were knocked out by AC Milan in the round of 16.
In terms of memorable United debuts, although Cristiano Ronaldo’s was sensational, Rooney’s has to be the best ever and is probably hard to beat by any player at any club in the history of professional football.
There have been other hat-trick debuts, such as Christian Vieri’s for Inter Milan vs Verona, Romario’s for Barcelona vs Real Sociedad and Erling Haaland’s for Dortmund, but given the occasion and the standard of all three goals, many would consider Rooney’s to be the greatest.