It’s hard not to feel that Wayne Rooney will only be truly appreciated once he retires.
The Manchester United captain receives more than his share of stick - much of it from his own club’s supporters - and has done for a good number of years now.
But it shouldn’t be forgotten that Rooney is now United’s all-time leading goalscorer. That achievement in itself means he’ll walk away from Old Trafford, potentially as early as this summer, as a bonafide Red Devils’ legend.
There are United fans who haven’t properly forgiven Rooney for handing in a transfer request back in 2010 and probably never will.
His reputation in the eyes of those supporters plummeted even further three years later when Sir Alex Ferguson revealed the England centre-forward had asked to leave the club for a second time.
Rooney denied he’d submitted a second transfer request and ended up staying at the club - David Moyes replaced Ferguson at Old Trafford that summer - but the damage had already been done.
Shame how their relationship crumbled
It’s a shame how the relationship between Rooney and Ferguson crumbled during their final season working together.
For the most part, they’d enjoyed an excellent working relationship.
Rooney was happy working under arguably the greatest football manager of all time, while Ferguson admired the former Everton starlet’s work ethic and overall quality.
Fergie: I only managed four world-class players
But in 2015, Ferguson failed to name Rooney as one of the four world-class players he managed.
“I don't mean to demean or criticise any of the great or very good footballers who played for me during my 26-year career at United, but there were only four who were world class: [Eric] Cantona, [Ryan] Giggs, [Cristiano] Ronaldo and [Paul] Scholes,” the Scot was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
What Rooney told Fergie ahead of playing v Drogba
However, he would surely name Rooney if asked to name the least selfish players he worked with during his illustrious career.
Back in 2010, the journalist Patrick Barclay released a fascinating biography about Ferguson called 'Football - Bloody Hell!: The Biography of Alex Ferguson'. It’s well worth a read if you get the chance.
And there’s a superb little anecdote in it from Ferguson himself which highlights Rooney’s remarkable selflessness.
“He’s not a selfish player, not a selfish boy,” Ferguson said of Rooney, per Barclay's biography, when he still United boss. “He’s a committed winner and this leads him to make sacrifices to the detriment of his individual performance. As a team player, he is absolutely fantastic.
“He tells me things like ‘I can play centre-half - I played there for my school, you know.’
“And I have to tell him, ‘Wayne, but we’re playing [Didier] Drogba today.’
“The attitude he’s got is a terrific asset to this club.”
This is what made Rooney special
Players with that mentality are hard to find these days. Rooney is almost a throwback to a bygone era.
And at his peak, when he was undoubtedly world-class, you sense Rooney wouldn’t have done too bad a job up against the formidable Drogba.