On This Day In 2004: Wayne Rooney Signs For Manchester United

When Wazza started his journey from wonderkid to icon
07:00, 31 Aug 2023

On August 31, 2004, Manchester United signed 18-year-old Wayne Rooney from Everton for £27 million and in the years that followed he would go on to become the greatest marksman in the club’s history not to mention one of the most talked about players of his generation.

Rooney had caught the eye of the nation after showing flashes of his potential brilliance at his boyhood club, Everton, including a brilliant curling effort against Arsenal at Goodison Park in 2002 to end a 30-match unbeaten run for the Gunners and announce his arrival on the big stage in emphatic style.

"I'm excited to be joining a club as big as Manchester United. I feel this can only improve my career," claimed Rooney as he addressed the world’s media after the record-breaking move for a teenager. While his new manager, Alex Ferguson, told the assembled throng of reporters and photographers: "I am very excited. I think we have got the best young player this country has seen in the past 30 years."

Having been completed just hours before the transfer window slammed shut it signalled the end of one of the most talked-about transfers of its time as United finally got their man and needless to say expectations were high.

"I can see Wayne having the same impact that Eric Cantona had on the team when I signed him," Alex Ferguson bravely proclaimed while some of the former greats who had graced the famous red shirt down the decades were equally as positive.


Denis Law, who netted 237 times during his time at Old Trafford, would go even further with his own prophetic prediction: "He has the ability and goal power to beat my 18 hat-tricks and as for my 46 in a season, I don't see any reason why he can't overtake that one day either. Eventually, he'll have all the records."

Despite the somewhat premature praise heaped upon him, Rooney, who had excelled at the previous summer’s European Championships in Portugal, showed no signs of being daunted by the huge fee that United had paid or the levels which he was now expected to live up to.

After spending the first few weeks of the season on the sidelines Rooney eventually made his United bow in a Champions League Group game against Fenerbache on September 28, 2004, in the most emphatic style; scoring a blistering hat-trick in what was a memorable night, not just for the young striker, but anyone who had the pleasure of witnessing it.

The feat saw Rooney became the youngest player ever to score a hat-trick in the Champions League, aged 18 years 335 days, and proved to be just the start of things to come for a player who would go on to be a catalyst in a side which would quickly establish themselves as a major force in English football for the best part of the next decade.

In his time at Manchester United Rooney won five Premier League titles, a UEFA Champions League medal, three League Cups as well as the FA Cup and the Europa League; though it’s his individual efforts which would see his name go down in the annals of Old Trafford folklore for years to come.

In 13 years at United Rooney averaged just under 20 goals per season, which not only saw him join some of the great names who have graced the famous Old Trafford pitch down the years, including the aforementioned Denis Law, but on 21 January 2017, Rooney finally surpassed Bobby Charlton to become the outright leading scorer for Manchester United after grabbing his 250th goal for the club.

Rooney eventually returned to Everton in 2017 before latterly plying his trade for DC United in MLS. But the 253 goals he scored – not to mention the haul of trophies he helped to bring to the club - would ensure that despite him once famously claiming that he’ll always be Blue; his legend status in the red of Manchester United can never be questioned.

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