200 is a big number. You don't score 200 goals for Manchester United if you're no good.
That 200 puts Wayne Rooney within reach of the goals totals of United greats such as Bobby Charlton and Denis Law. Given his age, it seems likely he'll finish his career as United's top scorer if he hangs around long enough.
But while Charlton and Law are football legends of huge and deserved repute, Rooney's ascension to this pinnacle feels different. Indeed, the Rooney legend is a peculiar thing. There's no doubting his achievements, nor his obvious quality as a footballer, but the feeling remains that he's not the cream of the crop, is distinctly second rank when compared to other top players and simply not nearly as good as many try to claim. No-one thought that about Denis and Bobby while they were playing.
Why would this be? Obviously some of it is blind dislike of United and their players. But this is not true of most of us. The supposed ABU phenomenon is vastly over-stated by a few paranoid, over-sensitive United fans.
It's hard to properly rate Rooney. Firstly, it's hard to think of him as a fully grown man. His image is somewhat frozen in the popular imagination as a sweaty, red-faced stroppy child who has eaten too much space dust. But Rooney is a man, he's 27. Given his physical condition, it's not too fanciful to think he has entered the autumn of his career already. That fact we don't really take him seriously as a grown-up may go some way to understanding how his contribution is assessed.
Rightly or wrongly, he is emblematic of the arrested development at the heart of the modern pampered footballer world. He has also been at the forefront of the English game at a time of huge media expansion and that's led to no small measure of over-exposure. No previous generation had to deal with this to the same degree. Anyone in this degree of focus engenders extremely divided opinion, regardless of what the man is like beyond the lighted stage.
He is also, through advertising, marketing and seemingly endless slavish praise from some quarters, been elevated as a footballer to a height that his actual talent can't match or, at least, can't match on a consistent basis. Months go by during most seasons when he seems to lose the ability to do even the most basic things on a pitch. We've all seen it happen. We've also seen commentators melt in reserve a special sort of amazement for his talent, even when he does something fairly routine. Just because it's Rooney seems to make it better. This kind of over-fawning turns our stomachs and instinctively we want to counter-balance it. It's not Wayne's fault per se but nonetheless, it influences how the wider public feels about him.
But even through these times, his stats looks pretty impressive. Yet, stats don't tell you everything. The quality of his performances for United have been unusually hysterical by any standards. The good, very good, the bad, very bad. In previous years I've said he's either a four or a nine, rarely anything in between. More recently there has seemed to be less stunning nines and less awful fours. Perhaps consistency will come to him later in his career and help us reach a more settled perspective.
Throughout the years he's had the 'world-class' tag thrown at him, as though it means anything. It doesn't. By any judgement, Rooney is obviously a top footballer, only the fact that he has been too highly lauded at times when his form has not deserved it has led to others feeling he's actually worse than he really is. That is a perverse and yet very modern phenomenon, which is very apt because Wayne is a perverse and very modern phenomenon.
Rooney's 200 should be cause of congratulation and acknowledgement. When on form, he is a joy to watch. The bull-headed ball of energy and brilliance of eight or nine years ago has, sadly and inevitably, long gone but that doesn't mean he still isn't capable of some greatness. Maybe his legend, statistical or otherwise, will only fall into proper light when his career is over. Maybe then a more dispassionate view can be taken. The soap opera around him obfuscates the truth too easily.
When the dust settles and we look back I suspect we'll say he was some way short of the best of his generation but nonetheless was bloody good. We should all be proud to achieve that much in life.
Absolute balls. Rooney is very seldom a 4 as even when he has a poor game, by his standards, he still has a great deal to contribute. There were a few 4s towards the end of last season, but these stood out so much that they led to a summer of transfer speculation. I can't think of a manager in the world who wouldn't have him in their squad and he'd walk in to the vast majority of teams. World class.- nicobellik