MANCHESTER, England — It was a moment of drama and pride for Wayne Rooney but one tinged with disappointment for Bobby Charlton.
Rooney overhauled Charlton on Saturday to become Manchester United’s record scorer, coming off the bench to net his landmark 250th goal in stoppage time at Stoke to clinch a 1-1 draw in the Premier League.
“(Charlton) came and congratulated me in the dressing room so I know he’s pleased in some way,” said Rooney, who has won the Champions League and five Premier League titles with United.
“I’m a team player but records are important. When you finish your career you can look back on it and it’s something to tell your kids.”
Last January, Rooney moved past Denis Law to become United’s second-highest scorer on 239 and, now playing as a deep-lying attacker or in midfield, began the slow crawl to surpass the tally of club great Charlton – who was among fans watching the game against Stoke – that had stood since 1973.
The 31-year-old Rooney, no longer assured of a starting spot in his 13th season at United, moved level with Charlton on Jan. 7 and needed two more weeks to take the record outright.
Rooney has scored 250 goals in 546 games, Charlton scored 249 in 758 matches.
“I have become used to the honor of being the club’s all-time top goal scorer,” Charlton said. “We have had some incredible strikers here at Old Trafford and they have scored a lot of goals, but it has been fairly obvious for a while now that Wayne Rooney was going to be the one likeliest to break my record.
“And now that day has come, I would be lying to say that I’m not disappointed to have lost the record. However, I can honestly say that I’m delighted for Wayne. He deserves his place in the history books.”
Having already broken Charlton’s 49-goal England scoring record in 2015, Rooney has now completed possibly the final major feat of his illustrious – if turbulent – career.
“He is a true great for club and country, and it is fitting that he is now the highest goal scorer for both United and England,” Charlton said. “It has been great to watch him every week since his arrival at Old Trafford in 2004.
“He set the tone with a wonderful hat trick on his debut and he has thrilled us all in the years since, going on to enjoy a hugely successful career.”
Setting the United goal record confirms Rooney as a modern-day great in English soccer, if not maybe the world game.
Some will say he hasn’t quite reached the heights expected of him after bursting onto the international scene with such brio at the 2004 European Championship, or that he hasn’t kicked on from when he was arguably at the top of his game with United in the 2009-10 season.
In that season, Rooney was at a level comparable to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. But his career has tailed off somewhat – save for certain standout periods – while Messi and Ronaldo have gone from strength to strength, competing on an annual basis for FIFA’s Player of the Year award.
In some United supporters’ eyes, he has also tarnished his long stay at United by seeking to leave the club firstly in 2010 and again at the end of the 2012-13 season.
But there have been many memorable moments in the famous red jersey since moving to United from Everton for 20 million pounds as an 18-year-old prodigy in 2004, starting with his debut when he scored a hat trick in a Champions League match against Fenerbahce at Old Trafford.
He scored 17 goals in his first season, the highlight being a thunderous volley from 30 meters against Newcastle in April 2005 that will go down as one of the best goals in his career.
Ironically, Rooney has rarely been a prolific scorer. He managed 16 league goals in 2005-06, 14 in 2006-07, 12 in 2007-08 and 12 in 2008-09. His best scoring season for United was in 2009-10, when he netted 33 goals in all competitions (26 in the league) and he was named English soccer’s player of the year by his fellow professionals.
And the 79-year-old Charlton thinks Rooney still has much to offer.
“I was 35 when I retired – Wayne is only 31 and still going strong, so I don’t think he’s done by a long stretch yet,” Charlton said. “He continues to show that he can contribute goals, assists and performances whenever called upon, he will raise the bar even further before he calls it a day.
“Now he’s the man to beat, and I can’t see anybody doing that for a long, long time.”
Some of Rooney’s great goals include:
– His powerful volley from the edge of the area in a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough in the FA Cup in January 2005
– His overhead kick against Manchester City that sealed a 2-1 win at Old Trafford in February 2011
– His shot from the halfway line against West Ham in a 2-0 win at Upton Park in March 2014
Story: Rob Harris, Steve Douglas