On Saturday, fans around the world that were tuned into Manchester United’s match against Stoke City got to witness a piece of football history. With time drawing down in the match, and United trailing 1-0, Wayne Rooney lined up a free kick from a tight angle on the left wing. Everyone in the stadium thought that a cross to one of United’s big men was imminent, but the 31-year-old rolled back the clock with a miraculous shot into the top corner. The goal saved a point for the Red Devils, but even more importantly, it finally made Wayne Rooney Manchester United’s all-time leading goal scorer.
The highlight reel strike was Rooney’s 250th for the club. It only took him 546 appearances to reach that mark, and it moved him one above the legendary Sir Bobby Charlton who has held the club record since 1973. Granted, in recent years, Rooney hasn’t quite been the dynamic striker that fans had come to love, but that doesn’t diminish this amazing record at all. I feel extremely lucky to have watched some of Rooney’s best strikes, and in honor of his achievement, here are my top five favorite Wazza strikes.
1. Manchester United vs. Manchester City (February 12, 2011)
This was the clear choice for my favorite Rooney strike. It was a game-winner. It was against Manchester City. Oh yeah, and it was a picture perfect bicycle kick into the top corner.
This came during a season where the striker wasn’t exactly a fan favorite. Earlier in the campaign, Rooney’s representatives released a statement explaining that the player no longer wanted to play for the club and would be seeking a move. Even after signing a five-year extension following this slight saga, fans can’t be blamed for doubting Rooney’s commitment to the club.
I think that this goal, and the ensuing celebration, really showed the Red Army that their talismanic striker was prepared to put in the work at Old Trafford. It’s hard to find a person that hasn’t seen some clip of this goal, and it fully deserves the acclaim that it’s received over the years.
2. Manchester United at West Ham United (March 22, 2014)
I picked Rooney’s long-range strike against West Ham as my second favorite goal because it provided a glimmer of hope in an otherwise abysmal season. The 55-yarder came during David Moyes’ one season in charge of the Red Devils, and fans quickly realized that they were no longer watching Sir Alex Ferguson’s dominant United.
Rooney’s unbelievable strike was reminiscent of David Beckham’s half-field golazo against Wimbledon back in 1996. Despite his great goal scoring track record, fans had to question why Rooney would even attempt a shot from that distance, but it’s impossible to argue with the end result.
Some might say that it was just dumb luck, or poor goalie play that led to Rooney’s shot finding the back of the net, but I credit his amazing footballing IQ.
3. Manchester United at Stoke City (January 21, 2017)
You could make the argument that this should be at the top of this list, and my response would be, this is my list so I can do whatever I want. As I watched Saturday’s match, I became increasingly frustrated at United’s apparent reluctance to fire a shot, and I didn’t even think that Rooney would attempt a shot from that angle.
That wrongful assumption shows exactly why he’s a setting club records and I’m sitting in bed watching them in pajama pants. The strike also silenced some of the critics that have been hounding Rooney for the last couple of seasons, and it showed some of the club’s newer fans why he has attained such a legendary status at the club.
4. Manchester United vs. Newcastle United (April 24, 2005)
This stunning volley came during Rooney’s debut season at Old Trafford. Still just a teenager, Rooney had already given United fans plenty of reason to be excited about his future with a debut hat-trick against Fenerbahce in the Champions League, and this strike only added fuel to the fire.
The goal actually sparked a 2-1 comeback victory for United, and it showcased exactly why the club had spent £25.6 million to acquire his signature. Rooney’s shot exemplified the power, precision and technique that would make him a household name for years to come.
5. Everton vs. Arsenal (October 19, 2002)
I know that this isn’t a goal that counted toward Rooney’s record-breaking tally, but I still think that it’s one of the best of his career. Yes, the goal itself is absolutely ridiculous but when you consider the context surrounding it, it becomes even more unbelievable.
At just 16 years old, it made him the youngest scorer in Premier League history. He had only just started playing for the first team, and he was going up against a team that had the likes of Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Viera and a legendary keeper in David Seaman. For him to even attempt such an ambitious strike shows just how much confidence he had in himself.
Perhaps the best thing to come out of this goal was the commentary that came with it. “Remember the name: Wayne Rooney.”