With Wayne Rooney making history twice in one night, becoming the highest goalscorer in all competitions for Manchester United as well as the player with most away goals in Premier League history, I thought of listing my Top 10 Favourite Wayne Rooney goals. Be warned, this list represents my opinion and there will be a touch of emotion attached with almost every entry. However, there are some goals on this list which I did not personally watch live. Some of these came before I regularly started watching and supporting Manchester United. However, I could not resist but add great detail to those which I saw live and remember vividly.
Goals scored at Old Trafford will be listed with (H) after the opposing team;s name with goals scored on the road will have a (A).
10) Athletic Bilbao (A), March 2012
In the 2011/12 Champions League season, after being finalists in the competition the year before, Manchester United had been knocked out in the group stages by FC Basel. They finished 3rd and dropped down to the Europa League where they drew with Ajax in the Round of 32. The two traded away victories with United coming out on top on away goals. In the Round of 16, United were paired with a new opposition. A club they had never faced before in their 126-year history so far. Spain and the Basque Country's (El Pais Vasco) club, Athletic Bilbao.
I have had the opportunity to see Athletic Bilbao's stadium in person and it is a sight to see. My immediate thought was of Wembley stadium (even though I've never seen it) without the arch. It is magnificent. The crowd is close to the pitch and they make a huge racket especially during important games of the season.
Athletic Bilbao had totally outplayed Manchester United in the first-leg at Old Trafford, with only David De Gea saving the score from looking like a one-sided baseball match. United had lost the first leg 2-3 and went to Bilbao knowing they needed to win by two clear goals.
The first-leg had made a Bilbao fan out of me which is why this goal makes my list, I was almost happy Bilbao were going through at the expense of ManUtd. They had absolutely deserved it based on their first-leg performance and they absolutely dominated the second as well, going 2-0 up by the hour mark thanks to, first, Fernando Llorente's brilliant volley (underrated, very underrated goal) and then Oscar De Marcos' finish. Llorente was really unlucky to get injured shortly after scoring the first goal and had to be brought off later in the first half.
United had not looked capable of responding with anything before Wayne Rooney came up with a beautiful curler from 30-yards in the last 10 minutes to restore some pride to the United camp and bring the aggregate score down to a slightly more respectable 5-3. Atheltic really should've scored more than 10 goals over the two legs, considering the amount of clear-cut chances that they had.
What made this goal special for me was not only the distance and technique but the fact that, after the goal, the Athletic fans rose up to their feet, recognized the quality of Wayne Rooney and gave him a standing ovation!
Athletic Club de Bilbao has always been my favourite team in the Spanish 'La Liga' because of its policy of only fielding players with Basque Country nationalities, which greatly limits the pool of players available to them in any transfer market. Even then, they have achieved great success, reaching the final of the Europa League in this same season, only to lose out to Atletico Madrid.
9) Fenerbahçe (A), November 2016
This was my first and, sadly, only Manchester United that I have had the opportunity to go see live for myself to date. This was always going to make my list!
The match had the top-spot in the Europa League group riding on it and United came to Istanbul having dispatched of Fenerbahçe 4-0 in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford a couple of months back. The script of this match was almost in parallel to the Bilbao match in the above entry with Fenerbahçe going 2 goals up midway through the second half and United having it all to do to get anything out of the game. I was lucky enough to see three great goals from this fixture, first through Moussa Sow's overhead kick in the first-minute which sent the Fenerbahçe fans around me (dont ask, long story) delirious before Dutchman Jermain Lens' perfectly executed free-kick put the Istanbul side 2-0 up in the second half.
United turned to their skipper in response and he delivered in similar manner to the goal at Bilbao, receiving the ball 30-yards from goal before unleashing one in the top corner of the Volkan Demirel's goal. Although the Turkish fans around me did not applaud like their Basque counterparts did four years previously, there was a pin-drop silence to be heard in the Şükrü Saraçoğlu stadium. The goal could not save United from a 2-1 defeat, however, as they finished second in their group behind Fenerbahçe.
8) Portsmouth (H), January 2007
The FA Cup is really a magical tournament. In my 10 years of supporting the club, I have only been able to see Manchester United win it once, which was this past season, in 2016 (King Louis!). This match in the list came in my first full season of supporting and watching United matches regularly. I had heard even before I started watching regularly that the FA Cup was supposedly the oldest footballing competition in the world. So, naturally, I wanted to see United win the competition that year.
In the 4th round, United were drawn with Portsmouth. Rooney scored an early goal in the first half before a second to round-off a brilliant performance and it is the second that makes the list here. Receiving the ball just around 25-yards away from goal, he turns brilliantly before seeing Pompey keeper David James off his line. Rooney goes for the exquisite and just delicately lofts the ball over the head of James into the goal. Old Trafford rose to salute a moment of sheer genius from their then-No.8 of Manchester United and all of his teammates rushed to congratulate a player with a unique talent.
How much difference a year makes. In 2007, United went on to lose in the FA Cup final while their 4th round opponents would return again to Old Trafford in 2008, this time in the quarter-finals. This time, they would knock-out Manchester United thanks to a Sulley Muntari penalty past Rio Ferdinand in goal as Pompey went on to lift their first and, as of now, only FA Cup triumph. That match in 2008 made me a Portsmouth fan as well as they put up an extremely gutsy fight to eliminate United and I've always had a soft spot in my heart for them since then.
7) Bolton (H), March 2007
Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney are still the best duo I believe United has had ever since I started watching (start of 2006/07 season). There's been Rooney and RvN, Rooney and Tevez, Rooney and Berbatov and Rooney and RvP but seeing United when Rooney and Ronaldo were together and on song was like watching football from a dream factory.
In March 2007, United were in a race with Chelsea for what was to be their first Premier League title since 2003 and, on this day, in their way were Bolton Wanderers. Roo and Ron absolutely tore the Trotters to shreds with three goals in the first 25 minutes, I believe, with the second one quite a beauty.
It took the ball all but 13 seconds to reach the Bolton net from Manchester United's own penalty box. The only two players involved in the move were Ronaldo and Rooney. It was a great display of pace, control and sheer raw ability by the two monsters and masters of their craft. Rooney's finish - a cute dink over Jussi Jaasklainen - was just the cherry on top of what was a great move.
6) ManCity (H), February 2011
Yes, this is THAT goal. And it comes this early on my list because 2010/11 was a time in my life when I watched the least amount of football ever since I started watching regularly. I did not see this match live. But what I remember distinctly from this season is Wayne handing in a transfer request in October, wanting to join Carlo Ancellotti's Chelsea.
Anyway. This was Nani's year. He went on to be named United's Player of the Year for the title-winning 2010/11 campaign and many people seem to have forgotten how important a player he was in Sir Alex's team when both of them were at United. After scoring the first goal in this 2-1 triumph, he then provided the assist for Rooney's spectacular game-winning bicycle kick. He had had criticisms about his weight, his physique as well as his commitment to the club before this game - and he has had them since then - but this was the best way to shut up all critics.
Dare I say, looking back, this goal seems like the turning point of Wayne Rooney's Manchester United career. He was already a club icon, but threatened by controversy surrounding his commitment to Sir Alex and the club. However, this goal put aside all doubts and set him on the path of legendary status, which he has duly attained since then. The goal was voted the best in Premier League history, enough said.
5) Chelsea (A), April 2011
Manchester United drew Chelsea in Europe for the first time since their 2008 Champions League final in the spring of 2011 when the two sides met in the quarter-finals. Ever since I started watching football, Chelsea has been somewhat of a bogey team for United. I take that back, not just 'somewhat' but they most definitely have been United's bogey team from 2006 to 2017.
Even just recently, the 2016/17 Premier League season. they dispatched United of 4-0 at Stamford Bridge so any kind of a positive result, forget a victory, at the Bridge for United were always hard work and seldom came by. So you can imagine the ecstasy any United fan must've felt when United managed a rare win in the Champions League at the home of their most biggest domestic rivals in recent years.
Not sure when United's last win had been at Chelsea in any competition but they had most certainly not won there in the League since at least 2002-03. This result was a big deal. Patrice Evra's cut-back and Wayne Rooney's side-footed finish sent United into the second leg 1-0 up with a crucial away goal. Leading by example after his transfer request debacle, requesting a January move to Chelsea mere months ago, Wayne exorcised some demons by scoring the winning goal against the same club at such an important stage in the season. United would go on to win both legs and qualify for the semis.
4) Newcastle (H), April 2005
This was the personification of Wayne Rooney in his younger days, in my opinion. Fiery temper, heart on his sleeve, passion dripping out of every sweat and a quite unbelievable volley from 25-30 yards coming out of absolutely nowhere.
Newcastle had taken a shock lead at Old Trafford and Rooney was busy arguing with the referee about some decision he believed should've gone United's way while not even looking at the ball. 5 seconds later, the ball was hitting the roof of Shay Given's net and Rooney was immediately on the spot to pump it back in out of celebration. Even in his celebration, he seemed angry that the foul had not been given earlier. Typical Wayne Rooney, and he was still just a teenager in his first season at ManUtd, mind you.
3) Arsenal (H), October 2004
We go even further back for this next entry and the day is Wayne Rooney's 19th birthday. Arsenal are the visitors to Old Trafford with a 49-game unbeaten streak. And what does Wayne do for his 19th birthday? Win one penalty and score one goal to end one of the most successful periods in the history of a club. What did you do on your 19th birthday?
Albeit controversially, Rooney won the penalty for the first goal scored by Ruud Van Nistelrooy before converting Alan Smith's cross to put the result beyond doubt. You just have to watch that match again and listen to the decibel levels in the ground to know why this goal is on this list. Every one associated with United wanted them to end the streak that day. There was no way Arsenal coming out of that game 50 unbeaten.
2) Everton (A), April 2007
If there's one thing that every fan loves from their club's players is a nice gesture towards the club's badge to indicate love and loyalty. Add that to the fact that goal comes against the player's old club just makes the moment more special. Then, add that to the fact that goal occurs to bring the team from 2-0 down to 2-3 up at the home of the player's old club, well, that just makes the moment unforgettable.
United were at Goodison needing a positive result towards the end of the 2006/07 season with Chelsea hot on their heels. They went 2-0 down in the first half and the noise from London could be heard all the way to Merseyside. However, Wayne Rooney and co. had other plans as John O'Shea struck soon after the break to make it 2-1 before Phil Neville scored one against his current club and for his old club to make it 2-2 before Rooney, who had been booed all game, retrieved a cross on the left side, cut inside one man and slotted it into the far corner to put United 2-3 up after a hard-fought game. I remember absolutely jumping and shouting in joy when the ball went in and the moment was just summed up for me when I saw Rooney grab the United badge on his shirt and kiss it. For a young fan, what else do you want to see? Absolutely loved it.
Just for good measure, United went on to score another through debutant Chris Eagles and win 2-4.
1) AC Milan (H), May 2007
The match was built as the battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. And Wayne Rooney upstaged both of them. This is the simplest definition I can give you for this game and the best reason for this being No.1 on my list and my favourite goal from Rooney's career.
The stage was the first-leg of the Champions League semi-final. United were close to the trophy they would ultimately win a year later but they had had a long, tiring season. They would go on to lose in the FA Cup final to go with a long title-race that would go down to the final two games on the season and the result was that most players went without a lot of rest in the last stretch of the season. Nevertheless, United took an early lead through Ronaldo's header but Milan came back and in a 15-minute spell, they went 1-2 up at Old Trafford thanks to the genius of Kaka. For a long time, it was looking like the predictions of Ronaldo vs Kaka had come true and Kaka had won the first-leg. However, up step Wayne Rooney. United need a positive result and knew even a 2-2 might not be enough back at the San Siro in the return leg. First, a simple finish to make it 2-2 by Rooney before United upped the ante and tried to clinch a winner. Giggs slipped a pass through and Wayne's early shot surprised Dida at his near post and Old Trafford erupted. United had beaten a major European giant at the peak of their abilities. This was to be a false hope though as the long season caught up with United in the return leg, getting smashed 3-0 at the San Siro. Milan would go on to win the Champions League, beating Liverpool in the final (at least there was that), while United would be left licking their wounds and preparing another charge at Sir Alex's second European trophy which would arrive a year later.
As explained, the reason for this goal being no.1 is simple. In my opinion, Wayne Rooney is one of the best all-round footballers to have ever lived. He can attack, he can defend, he's a team player, he can be everything you want him to be for your team and more. About how many footballers can you say that these days? For me, he is one of the most underrated players of his generation as players with more tactical freedom in their respective teams get more credit and more accolades. This match was the crowning moment of Wayne Rooney's goalscoring career as he upstaged two of the best players in the world at the time, one from his own team and one in the opposing side's, showing what he can do when void of other responsibilities.
Only one Wayne Rooney! And I'm glad he plays for Manchester United.