"And in Rooney they have a player who would walk into any team in the world - by all means include Brazil in that - and would also be the first name on that team". - Alan Hansen - BBC Sport soccer expert
Seldom has a youngster made such an impact in a major soccer tournament as Wayne Rooney did at the European soccer championships in Portugal in 2004.
With his 4 goals in 4 games for England, Rooney-mania swept not only through England, but the whole of Europe and the rest of the soccer-loving world. They just couldn't get enough of this wonder-boy. – Yes, boy, because he was only 18.
Some commentators even thought that Rooney's impact on Euro 2004 was comparable with Pelé's, when he introduced himself to the world by helping Brazil win the World Cup in 1958 in Sweden. Pelé was only 17 years old.
Wayne Rooney was born on 24 October 1985 in Liverpool, England. From an early age, his dream was to become a professional soccer player and to play for Everton, whom the Rooney-family had always supported. – Well, Wayne Rooney was going to fulfill that dream at a blistering pace.
Already as a young boy, it was evident that he was blessed with special skills; something that Everton scout Bob Pendleton spotted when Wayne was only 9, playing for boys' club Copplehouse in the local Walton and Kirkdale Junior League. And scoring a staggering 99 goals in his last season for them, Everton didn't need any more persuasion and brought Wayne Rooney to their youth academy. And so good was he, that he played for the Under-19 team already as a 15 year-old. And of course, Rooney was also part of Everton's youth team that reached the final of the Youth Cup in 2002. Personally, he contributed with 8 goals in as many matches.
Rooney soon battled his way into Everton's senior team and debuted in the Premier League against Tottenham on August 17, the opening day of the 2002/2003 season, aged only 16, in a game that ended 2-2 and where it was Rooney who set up Mark Pembridge's goal to give Everton a 1-0 lead.
And on October 1, Rooney scored his first goal for Everton's senior team, as he scored two goals in Everton's 3-0 win over Wrexham in the League Cup.
Rooney becomes youngest ever Premier League scorer
A couple of weeks later, Wayne Rooney was the talking point in England, as he became the youngest player to score in the Premier League, when he scored the spectacular goal that beat champions Arsenal on October 19 2002 and ended Arsenal's unbeaten run of 30 games.
Rooney was then only 16 years old (and 360 days). In the last minute of the match, he lunched the ball like a rocked from 20 meters. The ball then struck the underside of the crossbar and went into the goal as David Seaman in the Arsenal goal looked completely paralysed and wondered what on earth had hit them…
Well, that was only the beginning of the Rooney mania. (The record as the youngest goal scorer in the Premier League has since been broken twice; first by James Milner for Leeds (16 years and 357 days) and then by James Vaughan for Everton (16 years and 271 days).
Rooney's first Premier League goal (Everton vs. Arsenal)
Rooney's Premier League red card
On December 26, in a match against Birmingham, Rooney received the dubious honor of being the youngest player in the Premier League to receive a red card. This incident gave him a 3-match suspension. Just 6 days later, on New Year's Day 2003, he received his 5th yellow card of the season in a match against Manchester City, and this added a one-match suspension to the 3 he had before. More about his temper later…
In between these two incidents, he also received the 2002 BBC Sports Young Personality of the Year award.
Enters national team and becomes England's youngest goal scorer
Naturally, this wonder-boy also soon caught the eye of England's national coach Sven-Göran Eriksson , who included him in the England side, and when Rooney came on as a substitute in the second half in a friendly game against Australia in February 2003, he was the youngest player to ever play for England at 17 years and 111 days. (This record has since been surpassed by Theo Walcott, who appeared in England's friendly game against Hungary in May 2006 aged 17 and 75 days)
The England coach had high trust in the young Rooney and included him in England's qualifiers for the European Championship in Portugal in 2004. On March 29, 2003, Rooney made his first appearance in a competitive match for England, when he came on in the 79th minute in the EURO qualifier away to Liechtenstein which England won 2-0, and 4 days later, he was in the starting line-up in the all-important home match against Turkey, where it was Rooney who spearheaded England's attack and inspired England to a 2-0 victory. He received a standing ovation when he was substituted after 88 minutes and was named Man of the Match.
And in his 4th competitive match for England, Rooney set another record as he became the youngest ever goal scorer for England, when he scored in the Euro 2004 qualifying match against FYR Macedonia in September 2003, which England won 2-1. He was then 17 years and 317 days. Macedonia were leading 1-0, but Wayne Rooney equalized in the 53rd minute, before David Beckham made it 2-1 with a penalty after 61 minutes.
Rooney shines at Euro '04
England qualified for the European Championship in Portugal in the summer of 2004 and Wayne Rooney was in sensational form and soon took center stage by scoring 4 goals in England's 3 group matches and was voted Man of the Match in all 3 matches as well.
In the match against Switzerland on June 17 2004, where he scored 2 goals, he became the youngest player to ever score in a European Championship match. But this record stood for only 4 days, though, as Swiss player Johan Vonlanthen broke the record when he scored against France.
Wayne Rooney's exit from the European Championships was a bit sad, though. In the quarterfinal match against the hosts Portugal, he got injured halfway through the first half and had to be substituted. It later turned out that he had broken a bone in his foot. This injury was a vital blow not just for Wayne Rooney himself, but also for England, as Rooney was the biggest threat to the Portuguese defense. After Rooney's substitution, England faded and the match ended in a 2-2 draw and had to be decided with penalties. England lost the shootout and were out of the European Championships. Would it have been different with Rooney on the pitch? We'll never know…
Rooney joins Manchester United
But Wayne Rooney had made such an impression, that the race was already on to get Rooney's signing. That quickly became a two-horse race between Newcastle and Manchester United. And really, with Manchester United interested, Rooney was really only going one place: Old Trafford, Manchester. But it was only a few hours before the transfer deadline on August 31 2004, that Manchester United secured the signing from Rooney and Everton for a 6-year contract. And it wasn't cheap. United had to pay Everton a guaranteed £20 million, plus a possible £7 million depending on Rooney's appearances and achievements for United. And Wayne Rooney's wages would be around £50,000 a week. That's a bit more than the under £100 a week he earned at Everton before he could sign a professional contract aged 17.
However, Wayne Rooney was still injured with his broken foot and wasn't able to play on the start of the 2004/2005 season. Not before the 28th of September was he ready to play for United when they met Turkish side Fenerbahce in the Champions League. And what a debut it was for Rooney: A hat-trick in his first match for Manchester United! – 2 long-range efforts and one on a direct free kick. United won 6-2.
But the Manchester United-team Wayne Rooney had joined, didn't have quite the same force as they had had in the last 10 years, and they found it difficult to compete with the invincible Chelsea side that won the Premier League in convincing style in 2004/2005 and 2005/2006. But Rooney was still impressive, however, and was often the sole factor that kept United in top 3 after all. In his first season for United, he scored 11 league goals in 29 appearances and in the 2005/2006 season, that tally grew to 16 goals in 36 Premiership appearances. Manchester United ended the 04/05 and 05/06 seasons on 3rd and 2nd place, respectively.
Rooney and Manchester United were not entirely without silverware these two seasons, though. In May 2005, they narrowly missed out on the F.A. Cup trophy, losing in the final to Arsenal on penalties, after United had dominated the game – not least because of Wayne Rooney, who went close several times, twice hitting the upright. But the match ended in stalemate and was decided on penalties. Rooney made no mistake with his spot-kick, but Paul Scholes' miss turned fatal, as Arsenal scored on all of their penalties.
A month before this, Rooney crowned a fine first season for Manchester United by winning the PFA's Young Player of the Year award.
But in January 2006, Rooney finally had the joy of lifting a trophy with United after they won the League Cup final over Wigan. United won 4-0. Rooney scored the opener in the first half and made it 4-0 a quarter of an hour into the second half. Deservedly, Rooney was named Man of the Match.
However, it wasn't only for the good things that Wayne Rooney was in the news for. On more than one occasion, it was his sometimes ill temper that featured in the news.
He was severely criticized after he had lost his temper in a friendly international away to Spain on November 17 2004. He was so out of control, that England coach Sven-Göran Eriksson took him of the pitch before the end of the first half. Rooney was actually lucky to still be on the pitch then, as he could easily have been sent off for his antics. He received a yellow card for a reckless challenge on Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas 7 minutes before half time. At this stage he should already have received another yellow card for a much too aggressive challenge on a Spanish player. And when he once again made a wild challenge on another Spanish player, the England coach decided to substitute him. Rooney was so disgusted by the decision that he hurled the black armband, worn on the day in memory of former England and Liverpool captain Emlyn Hughes, to the floor. After the match, Wayne Rooney apologized to his coach and England teammates for his conducts.
On September 7 2005, Rooney's temper was in the spotlight again. A first-half yellow card in a World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland, which also suspended him for England's important penultimate qualifier against Austria, made Rooney go ballistic, and when England captain David Beckham tried to calm him down, Rooney reacted angrily and shouted at his captain.
And just 8 days later, Rooney's temper was once again featured in the sporting headlines when he was sent off in a Champions League game away to Villareal. Rooney was initially booked for fouling a Villareal player, but Rooney thought that the player had fallen rather theatrically and therefore ironically applauded the referee's decision to show him the yellow card. But the referee, Kim Milton Nielsen (who also sent David Beckham off in the World Cup game against Argentina in 1998), would have none of it and promptly gave Rooney his second yellow card. In his report, referee Nielsen also wrote that Rooney had sworn at him as he left the pitch. For his antics at Villareal, Wayne Rooney was given a two-match ban by UEFA.
This was not to be Wayne Rooney's last red card, as he received another in the quarter final of the 2006 World Cup against Portugal. More on that below.
Rooney brakes foot ahead of World Cup
And speaking of the World Cup, disaster struck for Rooney just a few weeks before the start of the tournament. In a Premier League game against Chelsea on April 29, Rooney was in severe pain after a seemingly harmless collision with Chelsea's Paulo Ferreira and was stretchered off. It later turned out that Rooney had broken a bone in his right foot; the fourth metatarsal, to be more exact. Such an injury would take round 6 weeks to heal. England's first World Cup game against Paraguay would take place exactly 6 weeks later, on June 10. Naturally, Rooney's World Cup participation was suddenly in a serious doubt!
Many of England's fans' would have thought they had had a déjà vu, as this was the exact fate that David Beckham had suffered 4 years previously. Well, David Beckham recovered just in time to participate in the 2002 World Cup, well… sort of… because he wasn't fully fit, which was evident for all to see.
But how would it go for Wayne Rooney? Just as with Beckham 4 years earlier, there were almost hourly news bulletins on Rooney's progress around the clock. Would his foot heal? Would he be match fit? Should the England manager even consider picking a player, who had just broken his foot, for such an important tournament? Manchester United's manager, Alex Ferguson, wasn't too happy about gambling on his star player's health, but England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson would probably pick him even if he was on crutches.
But after an anxious wait, Rooney was declared fit and was included in England's World Cup squad. He did not play in England's first group-match against Paraguay on June 10, but came on 15 minutes into the second half in England's second group-match against Trinidad and Tobago 5 days later, and against Sweden another 5 days later, he was among England's starting 11, but was substituted after 69 minutes. In England's second round match against Ecuador, Rooney played for the whole 90 minutes.
Rooney red-carded at World Cup
So far, Rooney, who probably wasn't in his best shape, had failed to impress, but so had England as a whole also, and their dull and defensive tactics didn't make it easier either for Rooney to make his mark in the tournament.
However, Wayne Rooney would make his mark on the 2006 world cup, but unfortunately, that mark was made in Portugal's Carvalho's groin. - Result: Another red card for Rooney, who was out of the World Cup. The rest of the English team was soon to follow, as they couldn't overcome Portugal and lost on penalties, after a 0-0 draw after 90 minutes + extra time.
Wayne Rooney later pleaded his innocence, and issued a statement where he claimed that his stamping in the groin of the Portuguese player was completely unintentional.
After the 1998 World Cup, David Beckham was slaughtered in the English media after his red card against Argentina, but Rooney didn't receive the same treatment as Beckham did, because this time, the English media instead chose Portugal player and Manchester United teammate Ronaldo as their victim. They did this, because they thought Ronaldo had tried to influence the referee to give Rooney the red card, and afterwards, Ronaldo was seen winking to the Portuguese bench, as to say: "mission accomplished!"
This incident led to speculations on how Rooney and Ronaldo would get along when playing for United in the future, but Rooney stated that there would be no problems between them, and although he had been disappointed with Ronaldo getting involved with the stamping-incident, he bore no hard feelings towards Ronaldo. And from the start of the 2006/2007 Premier League season, Rooney and Ronaldo have proved that there are no problems between them whatsoever, as they have been in inspirational form for Manchester United, although Ronaldo has been the victim of boo-ing from non-United supporters. In Manchester United's first Premier League game of the season, which they won 5-1 against Fullham, Rooney scored to 2-0, and 3 minutes later, he set up Ronaldo's 3-0 goal, before he scored his second to make it 5-1 for United.
Another red card for Rooney
But we're not quite finish with Wayne Rooney's temper yet. Just another red card to report, before we're done with this issue:-)
In a preseason friendly match between Manchester United and Porto taking place in Holland on August 4h 2006, Rooney was sent off for allegedly elbowing Porto-player Pepe. Even if this was a friendly game, the English FA gave Rooney a 3-match ban for the red card, which excluded him from United's 2nd, 3rd and 4th game of the Premiership season. United manager Alex Ferguson defended Rooney's red card though, and said it was unfair, because the Porto-player had made a meal of the situation, and he also suggested that referees are treating Rooney different from other players and that they get card-happy when they see Rooney, just because he has (been given) a reputation as a bad guy. As a site note and to wrap up this "theme" of Wayne Rooney's sometimes ill temper, it can be added that Rooney scored United's 2nd goal of the match (with a cheeky chip) which they won 3-1.
And herby, we have come to the end of January 2007, where Wayne Rooney and Manchester United at present are leading the Premier League table, 6 points in front of Chelsea in 2nd place. And so far, Wayne Rooney has scored 9 league goals in 21 appearances.