Soccer

How Wayne Rooney became a Premier League goal-scoring legend at Manchester United

How Wayne Rooney became a Premier League goal-scoring legend at Manchester United

Weekend mornings haven’t been the same since the English Premier League paused its season. The EPL will be back on NBC this month. Until then, NBC Sports Washington is devoting a week of stories to each of the Big 6 clubs in England: Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City. Because we miss the Premier League, too. 

Our fourth week continues with a look at a legend with ties to the Premier League AND to D.C. - Manchester United, and D.C. United's own Wayne Rooney, who is among the best goalscorers to ever play the game. 

From a very young age, Wayne Rooney made it known to the soccer world that he was an up-and-coming force that was not going to be easy to contain.

When he made his professional debut at age 16 with Everton, his hometown club, he was the second youngest player to debut in the club’s history. Then when he scored his first league goal on October 10, 2002, which just so happened to end Arsenal’s 30-match unbeaten run, he became the youngest Premier League goalscorer - though he’s since been surpassed twice in that regard. Over the next 18 years, mostly spent with Manchester United, Rooney cemented himself as one of the best players of his generation. 

Rooney’s trophy case is overflowing with championships, individual awards and records from his time at Everton, Manchester United, D.C. United and now Derby County FC. He’s scored beautiful goals, he’s scored scrappy goals, he’s scored goals of all varieties. He holds the records for most goals at Manchester United (253) and also for England’s national team (53). 

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Perhaps one of the best displays of what Wayne Rooney brings to the field though happened during his sojourn to D.C. United, and it wasn’t even a goal he scored.  

August 12, 2018 will be a day D.C. United fans will always remember. Tied at 2 with Orlando City five minutes into stoppage time, United coach Ben Olsen sent his keeper up into the box for a last-second corner kick trying to earn all three points in a tight playoff race.

As the corner was cleared off the line, the Lions had a clear breakaway through Will Johnson up the left side of the field. All he needed to do was send the ball toward the goal and those three points were in the bag for Orlando. Except Rooney had other ideas. On a full-out sprint of about 60 yards, Rooney caught Johnson, slid to tackle the ball away, then got up, picked out Lucho Acosta at the back post and fired a perfectly weighted ball across the field onto the leaping head of Acosta and into the back of the net. From losing to winning, in a span of about five seconds. Just one more moment of brilliance from a generational player and we got to see it right here in Washington. 

That assist might best showcase what winning means to Rooney and he certainly did plenty of winning during his time at Manchester United, amassing 16 trophies over the 13 seasons he played for the Red Devils. He secured countless individual honors and scored some of the best goals the Premier League has ever seen, including his bicycle kick against cross-town rival Manchester City which was awarded the best goal of the Premier League’s first 20 seasons.

RELATED: SOLSKJAER TRIES TO BRING MANCHESTER UNITED BACK TO ITS GLORY DAYS 

Now, as Rooney and his charges at Derby County FC get set to return after the pause due to the pandemic, his side are five points back of the playoff places in England’s second division, the Championship, with nine matches remaining. In a recent interview with RamsTV, Rooney noted that his side “all came back in good condition ready to obviously finish the season.” 

Derby certainly have their work cut out for them, with five teams between them and the playoff spots. The first and second-place finishers get automatically promoted to the Premier League. Then No. 3 plays No. 6 and No. 4 plays No. 5 in a four-team tournament for that final spot. But if any of that dogged determination from throughout Rooney’s career is any indication, they are not a side to be forgotten. 

As Rooney told RamsTV, “sometimes that break as well can also provide that hunger when you come back.”

As the soccer world has seen over the last 18 years, a hungry Wayne Rooney is a recipe for goals so don’t count out Derby County just yet. 

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Report: F.C. Barcelona sacks manager after blowout loss to Bayern Munich in Champions League quarterfinals

Report: F.C. Barcelona sacks manager after blowout loss to Bayern Munich in Champions League quarterfinals

Sometimes in life, things come at you fast.

On Friday morning, Quique Setién was the manager of one of the best soccer teams in the world. Hours later, he's reportedly out of a job.

F.C. Barcelona have decided to reportedly sack Setién following the club's blowout 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals on Friday, according to Fabrizio Romano of Sky Sports.

Setién's tenure in Barcelona was a short one; he replaced Ernesto Valverde just this past January. Expectations are high in the Catalonian capital; failure to deliver at a club like Barcelona will result in what has happened to Setién on Friday.

With Friday's loss, Barcelona will go a full season without a trophy for the first time since 2007-08. To put that into perspective for Americans, George W. Bush was the President of the United States the last time Barcelona went a calendar year trophy-less.

The loss was also Barcelona's third consecutive exit from Champions League in an embarrassing fashion.

Last year, the Spanish side had a 3-0 lead over Liverpool in the UCL semifinals before falling 4-0 in the second leg. To make matters worse, Liverpool were without two top forwards in the match, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

In 2018, Barcelona blew a 4-1 lead on aggregate to A.S. Roma in the Champions League quarterfinals. Roma defeated Barcelona 3-0 in the second leg, advancing on away goals. It was a night everyone in The Eternal City (including the person writing this who was in attendance at Stadio Olympico) will never forget.

Barcelona's Champions League exit marks the official end of a year to forget for the club.

When the 2019-20 season was paused in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Barcelona was in a solid position for a title run both in Spain and across Europe. But since the team returned to action, the club has played a brand of soccer they want to forget.

When the La Liga season was paused in March, Barcelona held a two-point lead over rival Real Madrid atop the table. When the Spanish league returned in June, inconsistent play from Barcelona allowed Real Madrid to jump them in the table and eventually win La Liga.

Friday's embarrassing loss to Bayern Munich, ending the club's Champions League hopes, was just the cherry on top of a horrific couple months for the club.

Rumors swirled earlier this month that Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player of all-time and a Barcelona lifer thus far, wants out. The world's greatest player for more than a decade just turned 33 in June. Barcelona has yet to hit rock bottom yet, but what once seemed unthinkable could be the reality for the club should Messi move on.

D.C. United to return to Audi Field as MLS will host local matches beginning August 12

D.C. United to return to Audi Field as MLS will host local matches beginning August 12

Following the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament, MLS will continue its 25th season by having teams compete in their local markets, the league announced on Saturday.

Thus, D.C. United will be returning to Audi Field for regular-season action. The team will open up on the road against FC Cincinnati on Friday, August 21, before having its home opener on Tuesday, August 25, against the New England Revolution. For at least the beginning of the season, no fans will be in attendance. 

“I would like to thank everyone involved with the MLS is Back Tournament -- players, coaches, staff and partners -- for their role in helping us recapture the momentum we had at the beginning of our 25th season and reconnect with our passionate fans,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Since suspending play in March, we have been working on plans to play as much of our season as possible, beginning with the tournament in Florida and resuming in our local markets following the competition. We remain focused on the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff, and look forward to continuing our season in our home markets.”

Though the league is planning to allow teams to travel after holding the tournament in a bubble, it doesn't mean protocols will lessen in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Players will continue to be tested every other day and are strongly advised to limit exposure outside of team facilities and mandated areas.

However, a major complication is how the three Canadian teams (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) will handle the season. Much like how the Toronto Blue Jays had to relocate to Buffalo to play the MLB season, Canada still has tight restrictions in place when it comes to leaving the country and coming back.

MLS states that it will have a clearer picture of the schedule in September, but initially plans to have U.S. teams only square off against one another. That may lead to the three teams north of the border only playing one another for the beginning of the season. PLans there remain uncertain. 

As it stands now, the league is set to kick off on August 12 and each team will play 18 games. Decision Day will be on November 8, and 18 teams will enter the playoffs. That number is four more than last season. The MLS Cup will take place on December 12. 

The MLS is Back Tournament is set to come to a conclusion on August 11 and the Portland Timbers will take on Orlando City for the title on August 11. D.C. United did not reach the knockout stage after finishing last in their group.

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