“Remember the name, Wayne Rooney!” exclaimed Clive Tyldesley 15 years ago today. Remember? We could hardly forget.
“Rooney is the biggest England talent I’ve seen since I arrived in England,” said Gunners manager Arsène Wenger after that game. “There has certainly not been a player under 20 as good as him since I became a manager here.”
Rooney was a revelation not just for Everton but, as Wenger alluded to, for English football. He played the game with freedom and imagination and this, coupled with his immense skill and technique, led many to believe he would go on to reach the highest level of the game.
As a result plenty of clubs were interested in the Liverpudlian and he went on to hand in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move away from Goodison Park. He was eventually snapped up by Manchester United for £25.6million – a record fee for a player under 20.
At United, Sir Alex Ferguson was tasked with controlling the young upstart’s temper. But as he gradually placated him some of the spark which once lit up his game was lost.
While still performing well at the top level, he never quite reached the heights his unfettered skill once suggested he would. Despite this he still produced a number of brilliant moments for United, and broke a number of records at club and international level.
His goal in the Red Devils’ 3-1 defeat against Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League final was a reminder of his worl-class talent on the biggest stage of all.
He overtook Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring records for club and country, claimed five league titles and one European Cup during his career, and now finds himself back at Everton where he started as a youth over 20 years ago.