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).
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.
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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