It is a tribute to Rooneys appetite and adaptability that he has surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton as Manchester Uniteds leading scorer. His goals and trophies make him the most influential English footballer of the last 25 years
It is one of the slightly lost details of Wayne Rooneys unveiling as a Manchester United player, but at the time Sir Alex Ferguson felt the need to defend blowing Uniteds entire transfer budget for the following year on a teenager. The fact is he is 18 and he could spend all his career at this club, Ferguson pointed out to the gathered media while his player, all gawky jug ears and clear, hard, unblinking teenage talent, held up a red shirt and smiled politely.
Four weeks later Rooney scored a hat-trick on his Champions League debut, leading the Manchester Evening News to note slightly saltily: To some pundits it appeared to be a huge gamble. But surely not any more.
No, surely not any more. Thirteen years on Rooney is Manchester Uniteds all-time top scorer, one of the great striking accolades in British football history passed with a superb free-kick to claim a point at Stoke. Rooney has taken 546 games to get there, 212 fewer than Bobby Charlton needed. In the process he has filled the roles of teenage wild card, younggunsRonaldo-wingman, senior pro, club captain, centre-forward, No10, right winger, inside-forward, central midfielder, prince of the good times and latterly last barnacled cling-on of a fading empire.
Ferguson was right too. A player who might have gone to Newcastle had they stumped up another 5m has spent the entire bloom of his peak years in Manchester red. Meanwhile that 27m fee looks like one of the best-value budget-blowing transfer deals ever made. Bear in mind the same summer Jonathan Woodgate went to Real Madrid for just over half as much, and the following year Chelsea would pay 21m of actual, real money for Shaun Wright-Phillips, scorer of four league goals across four seasons of meandering about on the wing.
For now, though, this is simply a moment to offer a little fond applause. Looming above the details are three points. First, this is a genuinely stark achievement, a record that in an era of ever-dulling superlatives really does deserve to be celebrated.
It has become a shared reflex to deride and belittle such achievements. No doubt there is a separate tract to be written on the peculiar syzygy of public reaction to its football stars: on one hand unconditional, heavily monetised fascination; on the other a shrieking rage at their perceived failings, in most cases at footballers who exist solely as moving blobs on a screen.