Millennium Post

The return of Everton's prodigal son

Almost 15 years and countless trophies later, Wayne Rooney has returned to his boyhood club Everton, after having spent 13 glorious seasons at Manchester United.

On October 19, 2002, Everton was playing at their home ground at Goodison Park against a much stronger Arsenal FC side, which had not been beaten in their previous 30 games. It was a nail-biting one, with both sides coming close to breaking the 1-1 deadlock on several occasions. The referee was about to blow the final whistle when something remarkable happened: a soon to be 17-year-old Wayne Rooney received a ball just outside the box 22-yard box and, with the dying minutes of the second half, struck a magnificent volley towards goal. The ball went flying from his boot towards the goal, struck the inside of the crossbar and went into the net as the Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman was left to do nothing, but pick it out of the net. The video clipping of that memorable game is available on the internet, where the ecstatic commentator Clive Tyldesley can be heard uttering the words that the world would not forget for a long time: "Remember the name: Wayne Rooney!"

The ball went flying from his boot towards the goal, struck the inside of the crossbar and went into the net as the Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman was left to do nothing, but pick it out of the net. The video clipping of that memorable game is available on the internet, where the ecstatic commentator Clive Tyldesley can be heard uttering the words that the world would not forget for a long time: "Remember the name: Wayne Rooney!"

Almost 15 years and countless trophies later, 31-year-old Rooney – now the captain of the England national team and unarguably a legend of the game – has returned to his boyhood club, after having spent 13 glorious seasons at Manchester United, where he won every possible trophy that an English club footballer can win.
When he officially announced his decision to join Everton on social media on July 9, millions of United fans across the world were heartbroken, to say the least. Rooney's career at Manchester United has been nothing short of a fairytale and he broke countless records over the 13 consecutive seasons he spent at Old Trafford.

The record that is bound to last longer than others is the number of goals he has scored for United: with 253 goals in 559 competitive games across all competitions, Rooney is the highest goalscorer for United. Rooney overtook the legendary Bobby Charlton on January 21 when he scored his 250th goal for the club with an unstoppable free kick against Stoke City. During his time at United, Rooney amassed an enviable five Premier League titles, lifted the League Cup thrice, the FA Cup once, the Community Shield four times, the UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup once (both in 2008) and, more recently, the UEFA Europa League at the end of the 2016-17 season.
Rooney left Everton to arrive at Manchester United as an 18-year-old when he was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson, United's longest serving manager ever, for a staggering sum of £25.6 million. At the time, it was the highest fee ever paid for a player under the age of 20. At Everton, Rooney played with the number 18 on his back. At United, the number had been taken up the legendary Paul Scholes and Rooney was given the number 8 jersey. Rooney's debut at United, however, was spectacular as it could ever be. Starting his career in a UEFA Champions League game against Fenerbahçe, Rooney scored a sensational hat-trick and also assisted in a goal, as United trounced the Turkish side 6-2. His three goals made him the youngest player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League, at the age of 18 years and 335 days.
The young Rooney's first season may have been productive for him. For the club, however, the 2004-05 season was trophyless. Rooney's first major trophy with United came in the 2005-06 season when United won the League Cup, after defeating Wigan Athletic in the final by four goals to nil. Rooney was named the Man of the Match in the final for his two goals. The next season, however, was more memorable to both United as well as Rooney. The then 21-year-old won his first ever Premier League medal, with his partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo being the highlight of the 2006-07 season.
The highlight of Rooney's career would, however, be the 2007-08 season. After the prolific Ruud van Nistelrooy had left United for Spanish giants Real Madrid the previous season, the number 10 jersey had been lying vacant for an entire season. In the beginning of the 2007 season, the jersey was given to Rooney, who said that he had always loved that number. Not only did United manage to win the 2007-08 Premier League season, they also defeated fellow English rivals Chelsea FC in the first-ever all-English UEFA Champions League final. In the FIFA Club World Cup final against Ecuadorian side LDU Quito, Rooney scored the only goal of the contest, giving United its first ever Club World Cup trophy. Rooney scored an impressive 18 goals in 43 games in all competitions for United that season.
Rooney lifted his third Premier League title the next season and scored 20 goals in all competitions. United also reached the UEFA Champions League final for the second consecutive year but was defeated by a superior Barcelona 2-0.
The 2009-10 season was the most productive for Rooney in terms of personal achievements as he recorded his highest ever tally of goals in a single season, 34 goals in 44 games across all competitions. He also finished the season as the top scorer in the Premier League, with 26 goals in 32 games. The only trophy, however, that United won that season was the League Cup, Rooney's second ever.
The 2010-11 was a tumultuous one, to say the least for Rooney. Speculation was rife that Rooney was to quit the club. The development was then confirmed by the manager Ferguson after he stated at a press conference that Rooney wanted to quit the club. It was almost decided that Rooney would leave the club, but in a dramatic reversal of fortune for the club, the then 24-year-old decided to stay on and agreed on a new five-year contract to stay at the club till 2015. One of the most memorable moments of Rooney's career came in this season during the Manchester Derby and neighbourhood rivals Manchester City. On February 12, 2011, in the 78th minute of the derby, Rooney scored an overhead bicycle kick into City's net to hand United a narrow 2-1 win at Old Trafford. The goal was hailed as one of the best of the decade and was awarded the Premier League Goal of the 20 Seasons award. Rooney also won his fourth Premier League medal at the end of the 2010-11 season, while finishing runner-up in the UEFA Champions League final, being defeated once again by Spanish giants FC Barcelona. The 2011-12 season saw Rooney achieve a few more highs. In late August, Rooney scored his 150th goal for the club and also scored a hat-trick in a Premier League game against Arsenal, where the London club was battered 8-2. In the next Premier League game against Bolton Wanderers, Rooney scored another hat-trick, thus becoming only the fourth ever player in Premier League history to score consecutive hat-tricks. He also equalled his highest ever goals tally for a season, with 34 goals in 43 games. However, the season did not see United win any major trophies.
It was the 2012-13 season that proved to be the beginning of Rooney's dip in form. Luckily, United won the Premier League that season, which would go on to become Sir Alex Ferguson's last ever season as a football manager. The Scot announced his retirement at the end of the season, but not before handing over Rooney his Premier League medal.
At the beginning of the 2013-14, speculation again arose about Rooney's departure, with his former Everton boss David Moyes being handed over the reigns of Manchester United. However, Rooney's once again gave all his fans a pleasant surprise, by extending his contract till 2019. The season was more than forgettable for United, as they finished a dismal seventh in the league and were knocked out of both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.
The 2014-15 season saw Dutch manager Louis van Gaal take over the club and saw Rooney don the captain's armband. The season saw a revival of sorts, with United finishing fourth and getting the chance to play Champions League football once again in the upcoming season. van Gaal's second season in charge of United was, again, a disappointment for fans all over the globe, as United were again knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage and only finished fifth in the Premier League. However, the season did finish with Rooney lifting his maiden FA Cup title with United.
Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho took over as United's manager in the 2016-17 season. This was perhaps Rooney's least productive season in his entire United career. The season saw Rooney score the least number of goals ever in any season in the Premier League, with only eight in 38 games in all competitions. This was the signal that United was perhaps ready to give Rooney the boot.
The inevitable was eventually announced on July 9 and Rooney bid farewell to the club where he won every trophy possible. Rooney's exit from the Manchester giants will indeed leave a gaping hole in their campaign for the upcoming 2017-18 season. But with Everton seeing their prodigal son returning to the club that he has supported since he was a boy, many will be curious to see what magic will Rooney bring at Goodison Park for thousand of Merseyside football lovers.

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