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So Wayne Rooney has equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record for England in, coincidentally, the same amount of games. If only he was half as good a player as Sir Bobby was.

It’s a pity that the record equalling goal was scored from the penalty spot against lowly San Marino, in a game where England’s main striker managed ONE goal in a 6-0 win.

People say that Rooney would have scored more goals for Manchester United had he not been played in midfield for a short while, firstly by Sir Alex Ferguson and then by Louis van Gaal. What they forget is that Bobby Charlton was never a striker and played all his games in midfield, for England and United. Charlton was not the main penalty taker for either Manchester United or England, so only 3 of his England goals were from penalties. Rooney has scored 18 goals for United and 5 for England from the penalty spot, although he also hasn’t always been the first choice taker.

It is also said that to become a truly great, world class player you have to win a World Cup. That is also untrue. Yes, two of the greatest ever players were involved in World Cup winning teams in Pele and Maradona, but this did not make them better. It only made sure that their fame was more global.

The greatest ever player prior to the 1990’s, according to Pele and a lot of others, was George Best. He never even played in a World Cup, never mind the final. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have never been part of a World Cup winning team, yet nobody doubts that they are the two best players in the world at present.

When I think back to World Cup finals of the past, I don’t remember Pele, for example, having a particularly good game in 1970. Brazil had a great team and hammered Italy, which they would have done without Pele. Maradona, although scoring one of the best ever goals against England in 1986 as well as a few other good ones wasn’t remembered particularly for the final, although he was more instrumental in getting them there than Pele had been with Brazil in 1970.

Admittedly, in the past, it was advantageous to play in the World Cup finals as this helped to spread the player’s name around the world. Nowadays this is not as important. Global communication can now be achieved in seconds rather than days.

The top players in the world no longer remain in their own countries as they did in the days of Charlton and Pele, so now the whole world of football watches the whole world of football. In Europe it is possible to watch the Copa America live, providing you are an insomniac. If a brilliant young player emerges in some small central American country , for example, the bigger clubs in the world are aware of him within days, not months or years.

So, back to my original point. Rooney has had far more opportunity to become Manchester United and England’s leading scorer due to the fact he has been played as a striker for both.

With Manchester United he has been particularly lucky that he has been allowed the longevity to achieve his feat.

In 2010, he took it upon himself to publicly criticise United’s transfer policy and the quality of his team mates, in a move designed to force either a move, (probably to Manchester City, in his mind), or a bigger contract. Fan power, fortunately for Rooney who should have been sold, made sure he got the bigger contract.

In 2013 he fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson and wanted to go to Chelsea. This time, Fergie said that Rooney had asked for a transfer, a claim denied by Rooney. Nobody knows the truth but, judging by the way the fans reacted the first time Rooney wanted to leave, it is understandable that he didn’t want any request made public. Ironically, the fans reaction the first time wasn’t to Rooney leaving, it was to the possibility of him going to City. Again, Rooney should have been sold. Shortly after this episode, David Moyes arrived at Old Trafford and Rooney was given another big contract.

Bobby Charlton would never have criticised Manchester United, whoever the manager might be. He certainly could have done when Wilf McGuinness took over from Sir Matt Busby. He never criticised United’s transfer policy even after the European Cup win when United began to stagnate. He never tried to engineer a transfer to any of United’s biggest rivals. Charlton’s one love was United and yes, it is possible that the Munich air disaster was what had cemented that bond, but the feeling remains with Charlton to this day.

Wayne Rooney’s big love is Everton. Where will he be when he is 78 years old? Will he be attending every Manchester United game at home, away and in Europe? I doubt it.

As long as the comparisons between Charlton and Rooney are confined to the field of play then it is a reasonable debate. As human beings, off the field, there is absolutely NO comparison.

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Comments
  1. L says:

    This is what make me so mad when the title of ” Legend ” is misused on players that just had the luck and honor to be signed by MUFC but never made any type of impact and were sold to lower clubs . They are introduced as MUFC Legend like Savage, Fortune , and the most horrifying is Hargreaves that arrived injured and left accusing our medical team for his poor physical condition. My full admiration to a real MUFC Legend Sir Bobby Charlton that never misses a game of his beloved team. Rooney maybe achieved scoring as many goals but in my opinion he never will be a Manchester United Legend because he only ever was there for the money no love for the club.

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  2. Tony says:

    Little bit of revisionism mate, I get that Bobby was perceived as more loyal and agree with that, but it was a different era, when the best players didn’t ususally leave.

    As regards Bobby not taking penalties for England, that’s not really true is it? though it is true that Rooney has scored two more. You can throw in the fact that Bobby scored more of his England goals in friendlies than Rooney did and you can see that their records are not that far apart in fact there’s a case for saying that Rooneys goals have been more important for England.

    Having said that, Bobby is still my all time favourite player followed swiftly by George and Denis. Georgie would have been my favourite but I felt he let United down more than a few times.

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  3. Thanks for the comment Tony. You’re right of course, Charlton did take and score three penalties for England although, as you can imagine with such a low number, he was never the first choice penalty taker, which is what I should have said. Where I agree that it balances out more is that England play a lot of “lower quality” opposition nowadys because they play more tournament football, whereas Bobby Charlton, as you said would have played more friendlies, although he still got all his goals from midfield.
    I suppose if I am going to compare Rooney with another England striker it should be Jimmy Greaves, who scored 44 goals in 57 appearances. If he had gone on to get the same number of caps as Rooney, (which he should have done), the projection is that he would have scored about 82 goals, so Rooney would still be 32 behind.
    (I have edited the post to more accurately reflect what you pointed out about the penalties).

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  4. gaharis says:

    I agree that the term “legend” is used too easily in the popular UK media. I have not noticed it here in New Zealand relating to say the All Blacks or in Aussie in relation to cricketers so perhaps it is a UK thing or is it another media trick to get clicks, like so many others? On that I always laugh when I see how a manager has ORDERED his board to buy this or that player. Managers do not order boards of directors.

    To me a legend doesn’t become a legend in his or her own playing days. It takes the quiet reflection of time to place that title on a player. Same with ‘great’ although to me ‘greatness is a step down from ‘legend’.

    Anyway I agree Rooney is not a legend YET. He has time to become one. Yes his off field efforts to get away from Man Utd have not helped but do they deserve to be judged any differently from George Bests drinking etc or Ryan Giggs and his infidelity? I know that they did not relate directly to the Club but they still reflected poorly on the Club in some way didn’t they?

    I think time will tell if Rooney is a legend. He certainly is a ‘star’ and thats another term which in my opinion is too loosely used. Surely not every player is a star!!

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  5. Thanks for the comments, although I think they are more appropriate for the post “How much Do Legends Earn?”
    As far as Rooney not being far off a “legend” I respectfully have to disagree. The two examples you use in George Best and Ryan Giggs are fine except that neither one of them deliberately disrespected the club. Their “problems” were outside of the club and, in the case of George Best, were almost impossible for the club to control.
    Rooney wanted to move on two occasions and only the offer of a new, large contract kept him at Old Trafford. Neither Best nor Giggs ever wanted to leave.
    Compared with these two, both of whom had human flaws outside of Old Trafford, Rooney will never get close to legendary status.

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