Football Features

Wayne Rooney: A serial record-breaker so good even a near-perfect Barcelona was desperate to have him

By Ben Green

Published: 21:18, 15 January 2021

Wayne Rooney has called time on his playing career after taking the reins at Derby County on a permanent basis, ending a glittering, trophy-laden 19 years on the pitch.

The England and Manchester United legend has been serving as interim manager at Pride Park since the end of November but has now taken the job on a permanent basis, signing a two-and-a-half-year deal with the Championship club.

The news marks the end of an golden era for England and, naturally, a flood of tributes poured in for the 35-year-old.

Gary Lineker hailed Rooney “one of our all-time great footballers” while Rio Ferdinand branded his old teammate a “legend” and “world class”. Current Man Utd forward Marcus Rashford also tweeted how it was a “dream come true” to play alongside Rooney.

Few superlatives do justice to the profound impact Rooney had on a generation of football fans across the globe, so we’ll let this compilation of the most notable records he broke do the talking (as well as many of Pep Guardiola’s old Barcelona team – scroll down for more on that).

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Notable feats & records still held by Wayne Rooney

The only player to score 200+ goals and provide 100+ assists in the Premier League (208 goals, 103 assists)

In his tribute, Ferdinand spoke of Rooney’s ability ‘to do it all’ and described him as a “team player”, which is certainly reflected in his career statistics.

Not only was Rooney a natural-born finisher. He was natural-born footballer, a forward who played with such cerebral grace it was as if his brain and the ball were one.

Rooney could find the net from anywhere on the pitch but also pick a pass as though he were a prime Andrea Pirlo orbiting the San Siro turf. To date, he is the only Premier League player with a goal tally that exceeds 200 as well as an assist haul north of 100. A world class all-rounder.

Only two players have scored 200+ Premier League goals: Alan Shearer (260) and Rooney (208)

Rooney sits proudly in a two-man striker pedestal alongside Alan Shearer as the only players with over 200 Premier League goals.

The most goals for Man Utd (253)

United have been blessed with many great goalscorers over the years; their top 10 resembles a who’s who of former Ballon d’Or contenders, including the likes of Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best. But, it is Rooney who tops the list with 253 goals for the club, four ahead of Charlton.

The most goals for England (53)

The 35-year-old translated that form to the international stage, netting over a half century of goals for the Three Lions, placing him above the likes of World Cup winner Charlton (49), Lineker (48), and current England star Harry Kane (32).

The most England caps by an outfield player (119)

It was, in part, longevity that allowed Rooney to break the above goalscoring record. The legendary forward amassed 120 caps, just five shy of Peter Shilton’s overall tally of 125. Rooney famously ended a two-year absence from the international fold to captain England for one last time in November 2018, entering the fray in the 58th minute at Wembley in a 3-0 win over the United States.

The most wins in an England shirt ever (71)

Most England fans will lament not winning a trophy since the turn of the century, but few can begrudge Rooney for his impact donning the shirt. Not only did he score goals by the bucketful, but he was also on the winning side more often than not.

England’s youngest-ever goalscorer

At just 17 years of age and 317 days, Rooney became England’s youngest-ever goalscorer in September 2003, clinically dispatching a cushioned knockdown from Emile Heskey to level the score in a 2-1 win over Macedonia. His record still stands to this day.

Accordingly, he is also the youngest goalscorer in a European Championship qualifying match from that same game.

The most goals in World Cup qualifiers for England (16)

England may not have gone all the way in World Cups since the start of this millennium, but Rooney’s contributions ensured the nation were always a prominent fixture when the quadrennial tournament came around. He also has the most goals in a single World Cup qualifying campaign, netting nine ahead of South Africa 2010.

The only England player to score in three different European Championships (4)

A feat achieved by Rooney despite England not qualifying for Euro 2008, a year in which he was arguably at his peak having won the Premier League and Champions League with United just before the tournament kicked off.

Most goals in competitive matches (World Cup, European Championship and qualifiers)

Combined, Rooney netted 37 in competitive matches, a testament to his ability to do it on the big stage and not just against the likes of San Marino (though he did net five goals against them, in three different games no less).

Most appearances in competitive matches for England (74)

Following on from the above record; Rooney loved the big occasion, whether playing for United or England.

Most red cards for England (2)

One of his more ignoble records, but a record nonetheless. Rooney picked up two red cards during his England career, getting sent off in games against Montenegro (2011) and that defeat against Portugal in the 2006 World Cup. The less said about that the better. He also holds this record jointly with David Beckham as the only two England players with multiple reds. And again, the less said about Beckham’s red cards the better.

One of only two players with an England cap playing for a non-European club 

Talking of records shared with Beckham, Rooney became the only other player to collect an England cap while playing for a club outside of Europe, making his final international appearance while on the books at D.C. United. For what it’s worth, Beckham amassed 14 caps during his LA Galaxy stint.

Most tournaments appeared in consecutively for England (6)

Again, it would have been seven were it not for Steve McClaren, a defiant umbrella and Slaven Bilic. From Euro 2004 to Euro 2016 Rooney represented England in every international tournament between those continental competitions, giving him the record alongside Sol Campbell, who turned out between Euro 1996 and the 2006 World Cup.

Most goals scored by a teenager in a single season for Man Utd (17)

Rooney (2004/05) is not the most recent player to equal this record, with Mason Greenwood smashing 17 last season to join the Red Devil legend and other greats, including George Best (17 in 1965/66) and Brian Kidd (17 in 1967/68).

One of only three teenagers with a hat-trick on their Champions League debut

Rooney set the world alight on his European debut when he struck three past Fenerbahce in September 2004 at Old Trafford. It is a record he shares with Yakubu and Erling Haaland.

Most goals scored in the Champions League by an Englishman and, one of only six English players to have scored 20+ Champions League goals

Raheem Sterling recently reached the 20+ milestone, and he joins Rooney — who is the only Englishman to net 30+ goals in the Champions League — alongside Paul Scholes (24), Frank Lampard (23), Steven Gerrard (21) and Harry Kane (20).

Most Premier League goals at Old Trafford (101)

No surprises here. Other notable legend-to-iconic ground match-ups include Thierry Henry (114 at Highbury) and Alan Shearer (97 at St James’ Park).

Most Premier League goals as a teenager for Man Utd (15)

Greenwood is currently on 11 so could break that record before his birthday in October but for the minute Rooney dominates the pile, with Marcus Rashford (13) and Ryan Giggs (12) second and third respectively.

Only four teenagers have scored in back-to-back Premier League home games for Manchester United

Twelve Premier League goals against Arsenal, more than any other player has managed against them

Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero and Jamie Vardy all have 11 so this record may be broken soon. But for the time being, Rooney can bask in the glory of enjoying that milestone, with three goals famously (or infamously depending on where your allegiances lie) coming in that 8-2 humbling.

Records since broken & nearly records

Most expensive teenager, and most expensive English teenager

When Man Utd paid Everton a king’s ransom in 2004 for an 18-year-old, Rooney he became the most expensive teenager in world football (£25.6m). That record has since been shattered with Kylian Mbappe and Joao Felix sealing eye-watering moves in recent years, while Luke Shaw has since become the most expensive English teenager when Man Utd signed him from Southampton in 2014 (£30m).

Third-youngest player to reach 100 Premier League goals

Rooney was a precocious talent and he reached a century of league finishes to become the third-quickest player to do so, behind only Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler.

Third-most Premier League assists (103)

Rooney sits just behind Cesc Fabregas (111) and massively behind former teammate Ryan Giggs (162) here.

Everton’s second youngest-ever goalscorer

When Rooney netted that curling effort against Arsenal in 2002 at 16 years and 360 days he became the Toffees’ youngest-ever scorer, but just three years later that record would be broken by James Vaughan against Crystal Palace. The duo still hold the top two, though.

The third-youngest goalscorer in Premier League history

That goal also subsequently made him the youngest scorer in Premier League history but would be broken by James Milner just two months later for Leeds and then, eventually, Vaughan.

An ‘honorary’ Barcelonista

Beyond the records and countless goals, Rooney will forever be remembered for his technical superiority on the ball, that natural elegance when in possession. And no one appreciated his skillset more than arguably the greatest-ever proponents of beautiful football.

Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona are lauded as one of the finest sides to ever grace the game, with Sir Alex Ferguson himself describing the team that beat his and Rooney’s Man Utd in two Champions League finals as ‘the best team Manchester United have faced.’ Paul Scholes was equal in his endorsement: “They’re one of the best teams that’s ever been.”

Despite Lionel Messi and Co. coming as close to perfection as any football side has ever managed, many Barca players from that era, as well as predecessors and successors, saw Rooney as someone who could have made them even better.

Lionel Messi on Rooney: “It would be a dream to play with Rooney if Manchester United ever came to the point where they needed to sell him.

“I would personally go to the Barcelona president and ask that he be signed myself.

“There are always a handful of players in the world at any one time who can go down in the footballing history books.

“At the moment, there are maybe Ronaldo, Rooney, Xavi and one or two more – but I can’t think of one that plays with the desire of Rooney.”

Ronaldinho on Rooney: “Among the English, I still like Wayne Rooney. He has skill, shoots well and protects the ball.

“He is steady – never on the ground. I have always liked his style.”

Pep Guardiola on Rooney: “A big player, one of the best I have seen in my career.”

Andres Iniesta on Rooney: “What I value most about the way United play is how hard players like Rooney work.”

Xavi on Rooney: “Rooney is extraordinary, he could play for Barcelona. And before people imagine headlines like, ‘Xavi says Rooney to join Barcelona’ – although, I’d love him to! – what I mean is that he’s our kind of player.”

Gerard Pique on Rooney: “I have never seen a player as powerful as Rooney – the way he goes past people, the intensity of his play, the runs he makes from the first minute to the last and the shot that he has. World class.”

Neymar on Rooney: “Wayne is one of the most gifted and technical players in the world.

“Of course he would improve Barcelona. He would improve any club in Europe, and on a personal level, it would be a dream to play with him.”