Football | Premier League | UEFA Champions League | Tuesday, September 28, 2004
It was a whim of fate that brought Wayne Rooney to Manchester United in 2004. Sir Alex Ferguson had not wanted to sign him. Not yet, at least.
“If Newcastle hadn’t come looking for him he wouldn’t be here, he would probably still be at Everton,” said the legendary manager. “Once we found out Everton was talking to another club, we had to do something. We didn’t think he was available.
After following Rooney’s progress at Everton for four years, United were planning to make an approach in 2005. But they knew that if Sir Bobby Robson and Newcastle United got their hands on the English prodigy, United would one day hope to see Rooney in red. for.
He had shown that summer that he had the temper for everything. Already a Premier League superstar having exploded his name into public consciousness with CE winning for Everton against Arsenal, his four goals at Euro 2004 had proven that he was also an international legend in the making.
The foot injury he sustained against Portugal in the European Championship quarter-final was not about to stop the contenders from going in circles, and United were happy to shell out £ 27million for the 18-year-old on the August deadline day. no matter how long they would have to wait for him to debut.
It turned out that it took four weeks before Rooney donned the United shirt for the first time, advancing confidently between Ruud van Nistelrooy and Gary Neville for his Old Trafford salute against Fenerbahce on September 28. . As the Champions League anthem filled the tune of Dream Theater, the new number eight calmly nodded and chewed his gum. We had the impression that it was already integrated perfectly into the environment. Ninety minutes later, we were sure.
It only took him 17 of those 90 to make his mark.
After Ruud van Nistelrooy fell deeply to advance the ball, Rooney held back on a run inside his marker before sprinting behind to take the pass from the Dutchman on his left foot. With the pass and movement equally perfect, Rooney met the ball at the perfect moment and kicked with his left foot to give himself the start of his dreams at Manchester United.
Barely 11 minutes later, he starts again. Ryan Giggs took the pass from Gabriel Heinze and handed the ball to Rooney. Apparently without even checking, the youngster felt a defender come in to close him off so he instinctively let the ball pass through him before taking a perfect touch and unleashing a scathing strike from 25 yards that left goalkeeper Rustu Recber no chance. .
THE HAT-TRICK HERO ASKS BLEECKERE REFEREE FOR MATCH BALL
If there was any concern that Rooney wouldn’t have the legs in him to see the full game, it wasn’t really obvious from anyone of United’s persuasion. He only needed nine minutes of the second half to complete his hat-trick anyway.
As United lined up a free kick just outside the box, Rooney stepped forward. The script was written. He stood up, making a measured effort over the wall and past Recber’s desperate plunge. It was 4-1 at United, but it was almost incidental. Rooney had three. At its beginnings. In the Champions League. After three months of absence, injured. At 18 years old.
Even then, Ferguson didn’t feel the need to cut back on the fun. When replacements were made, Giggs was the one who left. Then Van Nistelrooy and Heinze. Rooney only left the pitch after United completed a 6-2 rout, swapping shirts with full-time Mehmet Aurelio, before throwing his new Fenerbahce booty upside down as he called on the referee Frank De Bleeckere the match ball.
There would be 250 more to come, of course, but those first three goals of Rooney’s career at Manchester United would never be lost in the reshuffle. It was one of the most iconic beginnings in the history of English football.