“Wayne Rooney is leaving #MUFC to return to Everton”, read a tweet from Manchester United last evening, ending months of speculation and confirming the inevitable. The tributes poured in from fans and footballers alike, my Facebook feed was filled with people sharing videos of Rooney’s top goals in a United shirt, and debates were on about whether Wayne Rooney deserved to be dubbed a Manchester United legend, or whether he was merely another great goalscorer who stayed on at the club because it was the best option he had.
None of it mattered to me. Fact is, Wayne Rooney has been a big part of whatever I have known and loved about Manchester United. This is not because I believed he was, or is, the greatest player in the world. It is also not just because Rooney has been the one constant while his strike partners have come and gone. It is not because Wayne Rooney leaves the club as its highest goalscorer in history, finding the net a whopping 253 times in his 13 year stay. Wayne Rooney has been a big part of my interest in football because he was not like the rest of them. He was different. He had a different attitude, and a different way of doing things, which struck me as the most distinctive feature I would like to inculcate.