2018 saw Wayne Rooney, all-time England top goal scorer and current D.C United striker-come-midfielder, step out of international retirement for one last game.
Styled as a testimonial and named the Wayne Rooney Foundation International (despite the fact that the FA donated none of the proceeds to the charity), Wayne stepped out on to a field of England stars old and new. Though he only entered the pitch in the second half, it was an emotional return for a man for many of the country.
Unless you’re a Newcastle fan, that is, because Rooney has – across 692 professional league games and 291 goals – never scored more goals than he has against the Toon.
Newcastle is amongst a group of only four clubs which can say that Rooney smacked in 15 goals against them. That list includes Arsenal, Aston Villa and West Ham.
However, Newcastle also has the dubious honour of being the club Rooney created the most goals against too, setting up nine goals in his 25 appearances vs. Newcastle.
That’s goal involvement in 24 games. No wonder he commented last year that “I enjoy playing against them, home and away,”
It’s a record which made Manchester United nigh on unbeatable for the Toon Army, barring a couple of tremendous results between 2004 and 2017 (3-0, anyone?). However, it could have been oh-so-different.
Back in the summer of 2004, Rooney had returned from the European Championships as a true star and was being eyed up by a host of clubs from across the world. He’d told Everton he wanted to leave and two clubs had emerged as front-runners for his signature: Manchester United and… Newcastle United.
Reports from the time suggest that Newcastle were ahead in the race for Rooney, according to the Independent. Moyes had identified the striker alongside Robbie Savage and James Beattie as potential targets and had set aside almost £25m for his talents.
Newcastle also had Alan Shearer, Rooney’s ‘dream strike partner’ and a player Rooney had idolised throughout his childhood.
It wasn’t to be, however, and Wayne Rooney would shortly join Manchester United, ready to score his first goal in the 90th minute in a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Newcastle at St. James Park on the 14th of November, 2004. Over 52,000 were in attendance that day to witness the beginning of Rooney’s reign of terror against Newcastle for Manchester United.
It was a goal which set him on course to the icon he is today, to the point where the Top Trumps Football Stars Sporting Legends slot game hosted on sites like Betfair includes his likeness.
Would Rooney have saved Newcastle from the dreary 14th placed season they endured? Quite possibly.
But throughout all those years when Rooney ran riot over the Premier League with Everton and Manchester United, from his first League goal against Newcastle in 2003 to his last goal vs. Newcastle in 2017, Rooney provided a consistent, reliable competitor to challenge ourselves against.
He is undoubtedly a legend of the Premier League and the national side. Our only wish? That he’d have cooled it just a touch when he arrived at St. James Park.