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Wayne Rooney - A Man United great

It was the summer of 2003 and a few weeks after the 2002-03 premier league season ended, with Manchester United regaining the title back from a rampant Arsenal. I was watching Sky Sports News when the 'Breaking News' ticker flashed at the bottom alerting viewers that United had agreed a deal with Real Madrid for the transfer of David Beckham.

As much as I was fed up with the circus surrounding the England captain, I was pretty sad at that announcement. I had followed him and others of that 1992 youth team through to their glorious title and cup wins in the senior team, so it was gut-wrenching to hear that he was leaving.

The very next summer just before the 2004 European Championships a friend of mine said to me, “when are we going to sign this Rooney boy?” I was surprised and replied that we might not have a place in the side for him. “Rubbish” he said. “We better sign him now before he goes to the Euros, plays very well and Real will just take him. The boy has no fear and is a Man United player”.

Wayne Rooney leaving Manchester United to return to his boyhood club Everton has been as gut-wrenching as that of Beckham over a decade ago on a personal level as Man United fan. It is the way of the current world that memories are short and those with the shortest of short memories are probably the loudest on social media.

Rooney is one of the greatest players to have played for Man United, and it is fitting that he departs with the club’s goal scoring all-time record. When England departed Portugal in that Euro 2004 following a penalty shootout defeat to the hosts, every objective person knew that had Rooney not gotten injured in the first half, England would have defeated Portugal and probably won the tournament.

From the very first game against France the world was introduced to this stocky kid with no fear. He absolutely destroyed experienced campaigners and you could see the fear in their eyes each time he ran at them. He toyed with Croatia in the final group game. He was blistering hot.

Despite being injured, Sir Alex signed him after the Euros. It was a privilege that I was at Old Trafford the night Rooney made his debut. Going into the ground there was no inclination that he was going to start. By the final whistle Fenerbahce had been put to the sword, with Rooney scoring an impressive hat-trick. In an otherwise dire season, Rooney was the consistent light along with his mate Cristiano Ronaldo.

I could write a book and make an hour long documentary to highlight the absolutely brilliant things Rooney did at United. There are folks who have not forgiven him for his attempt at trying to leave the club in the summer of 2010. I was very upset at the time as a fan, but when looked at objectively he had good reasons to wonder where the club was heading.

His injury the previous season had cost the club the Premier League title and at least a place in the CL final. That was the season after the departure of Ronaldo to Real Madrid. Rooney picked up the mantle and scored loads.

It is easy to point to his last three seasons and say he had dropped form. Well, the club had been out of sorts too in the same period. The dreadfully wretched period of David Moyes was followed by the bumbling autocratic Louis van Gaal. The Dutch man was determined to start playing Rooney away from his No 9 role.

He was never equipped for this. In a stats-driven time, Rooney's numbers did not always impress and he seemed to lose his confidence.

Did Rooney have to leave Old Trafford? Personally, I don’t think so. The club could and should have kept him. He had done enough to deserve that loyalty. It leaves a sour taste that Man United’s record goalscorer is playing at another Premier League side.

I was tempted to do a highlights piece focusing on Rooney’s career at Old Trafford, but I won’t do it justice. His signing and at least 10 of his 13 seasons were just highlights. Thank you very much Wayne Rooney, you go with my and those of many United faithful’s best wishes.

In the same vein, this is my final blog for www.supersport.com. It has been a privilege and I thank those of you that have read my work for the past five years. I thank all at the backend of the site who edit and post the blog and especially Emeka Enyadike for the opportunity to write here. God Bless you all.

I am still on twitter and you can still follow me @CalvinEmeka

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