Goal.com 50: Wayne Rooney (10)

Goal.com continues to count down our 50 best players of 2008-09 and next up is the man they call ‘Wazza’...

It is sometimes easy to forget that Wayne Rooney is still just 23 years of age. After all, this is man who has already won the Premier League three times, has played in two Champions League finals and made over 50 appearances for England.

Yet despite the success he has already achieved, there still seems to be so much more to come from the young striker and last season he took another huge step on the road to fulfilling his vast potential.

Rooney finished the season with more trophies to add to his already bulging cabinet as his picked up his third league title, watched as his team-mates won the League Cup and claimed glory in the FIFA Club World Cup.

Despite the presence of Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tevez, Rooney was a virtual ever present for manager Sir Alex Ferguson, and whilst his position may have been rotated throughout the season, the striker himself was rarely to be found on the bench.

Rooney has already admitted that his goals tend to come in bursts and so it was to prove again for the young Scouser, who netted 12 league goals, with five coming in as many games in between January and March as United tightened their grip at the top of the table.

The former Everton man was also on target in Japan, hitting the winner in the Club World Cup in December to ensure the Red Devils were crowned Club World Champions.

It wasn’t his only goal of the tournament, two more came in the semi-final in a furious game with Gamba Osaka that United won 5-3, which ensured the striker finished the tournament’s top scorer and won a car to boot.

Wayne’s World – Rooney Wins Club World Cup

His goalscoring is just one feature of his game, and it is his incredible strength, work-rate and sheer enthusiasm that so often inspires United when they are toiling.

A perfect example is the Red Devils famous 5-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur back in April after Spurs had been 2-0 up and cruising at Old Trafford at half-time.

Whilst it may have taken a controversial penalty to get the champions back into the game, Rooney went on to score two goals and set up another couple as United stormed back to the top of the table.

Crazy Man

Yet the striker wasn’t just banging in the goals on the domestic front, as for England he also rediscovered his goalscoring touch in fine style.

After the disappointment of missing out on the European Championships, Fabio Capello’s England began World Cup qualifying in determined mood.

Now, seven games later they have all but booked their trip to South Africa, with a 100 per cent record and with Rooney having netted an impressive eight goals (and ten in his last seven internationals).

Along the way he also picked up his 50th cap, becoming the youngest player to reach the half-century for the Three Lions in the process.

Furthermore, Rooney now has 24 international goals to his name and has admitted he has his sights firmly set on smashing Sir Bobby Charlton’s goal scoring record, which currently stands at 49.

It hasn’t all been perfect for Rooney. A sending off at Fulham as United crashed to defeat at Craven Cottage saw the striker back to his snarling, petulant worst, leading to Fabio Capello calling him his “crazy man”.

However, it was the only blot on the landscape, and having become a married man last summer with fatherhood looming, United and Capello will be hoping for a mellower player as a crucial season looms.

Of course next season offers much for Rooney, who will be hoping to sparkle at the World Cup next summer, yet, before then he will be under scrutiny and also under pressure on the home front.

Having lost Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, Manchester United’s goal scoring burden will fall largely on Rooney’s shoulders, and with him expected to play his favoured central role next season, all eyes will be watching him closely.

2008-09 HONOURS

Premier League

FIFA Club World Cup

Gill Clark, Goal.com

10. WAYNE ROONEY (Manchester United & England)