Wayne Rooney has brought the curtain down on 13 successful years at Manchester United after rejoining boyhood club Everton on a two-year deal. The 31-year-old departs Old Trafford having savoured numerous highs in UEFA club competition, not least helping the Red Devils clinch the UEFA Champions League in 2008 and the UEFA Europa League last season.
The club’s all-time top scorer also holds United’s goals record in Europe after he nudged past Ruud van Nistelrooy with his 39th effort in November. As he ends his stay, UEFA.com looks back at six of his most unforgettable moments in continental competition.
Man. United 6-2 Fenerbahçe, UEFA Champions League group stage, 28 September 2004
Snapped up from Everton aged 18 in summer 2004, Wayne Rooney joined United for a then record fee for a teenager – and, according to manager Sir Alex Ferguson, there were “plenty of eyebrows raised” after the €29.6m deal. Any doubters were soon silenced as Rooney lit up Old Trafford with a brilliant debut performance against Fenerbahçe, rifling in two emphatic strikes before curling in a sublime free-kick. “A great feeling”, as the forward later explained.
Man. United 3-2 AC Milan, UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg, 24 March 2007
Rooney did not score in Europe the following season, but he left his mark on the continent in 2006/07 as United advanced to the semi-finals. The Croxteth native was on target home and away as the Red Devils swatted Roma aside in the last eight – including a famous 7-1 victory at Old Trafford – and he followed up with a double at home to Milan, including a crisp finish in added time to put United on top. Ultimately it was not enough, the Rossoneri triumphing 3-0 at San Siro.
Man. Utd 1-1 Chelsea (aet, United win 6-5 on pens), UEFA Champions League final, 21 May 2008
Rooney appeared in three different UEFA Champions League finals and arguably made his biggest contribution in the 2011 edition, scoring a wonderful equaliser against Barcelona before the Liga giants ran out 3-1 winners. He was a more subdued presence three years earlier but still managed to create at least one notable chance for Carlos Tévez in Moscow, before being withdrawn for Nani in extra time. That meant a watching brief as United took the crown on penalties. “It was agonising,” he said, “the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in football”.
AC Milan 2-3 Man. United, UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg, 16 February 2010
There was to be no repeat of 2007 as Rooney made Milan pay in both legs of this last-16 tie, kicking off with a pair of headers as United fought back to win 3-2 in Italy. “He’s in devastating form; they couldn’t handle him in the second half,” said Sir Alex of his young star. “He was marvellous. He has to be regarded at the highest level.” Rooney was equally unstoppable at Old Trafford as he weighed in with another double in a 4-0 victory, before finding the net in a losing effort against Bayern in the last four.
Bayer Leverkusen 0-5 Man. United, UEFA Champions League group stage, 27 November 2013
No goals this time, but Rooney was the star of the show in Germany as David Moyes’ United secured a knockout berth with a game to spare. The talismanic forward claimed assists for the first four of his team’s strikes, including a free-kick headed into his own net by Leverkusen’s Emir Spahić. “We played with power, pace and composure, so it was really as good an away performance as you can get,” said the England striker.
Man. United 4-0 Feyenoord, UEFA Europa League group stage, 24 November 2016
Soon after protesting that he was “not finished yet”, Rooney moved ahead of Ruud van Nistelrooy as United’s leading scorer in Europe thanks to a display that rolled back the years. He had drawn level with a thunderbolt against Fenerbahçe and set a new benchmark of 39 goals with a dinked finish next time out, after sparking the move with a dynamic surge down the left. “It’s an amazing achievement,” said new manager José Mourinho, with Rooney having also set up Juan Mata for the hosts’ second.