And it took Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a superstar who has played in six different countries, to make the point that the English footballing public – even some Manchester United fans – have never fully acknowledged Wayne Rooney’s achievements.
England’s repeated failure at major tournaments hasn’t helped, nor has the fact that he plays for a club that attracts as many enemies as it does followers. Just remember the abuse David Beckham, now considered a national treasure, had to endure.
On an individual level, Rooney hasn’t scaled the global pinnacles achieved by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – but then they have not plied their trade in the hurly-burly world of the Premier League for 15 years. And they haven’t always put the team first, as Rooney has always done.
Darren Fletcher agrees with Ibrahimovic that much of Rooney’s work is unappreciated.
“He is the ultimate team player, willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the team,” said Fletcher, who played alongside Rooney for a decade before his switch to West Brom.
Wayne Rooney has scored 250 goals for Manchester United
Darren Fletcher played alongside Wayne Rooney at Manchester United
“Goalscorers are renowned as being a little bit selfish and only thinking of themselves and about personal records, but Wayne’s first focus is always on the team winning the game and the team winning titles.
“Without a doubt he has definitely not had the credit he deserves. Getting the United goalscoring record will get Wayne more recognition now but when he has retired people will look back at what he achieved and look at all his records and they will be talking about one of England’s all-time greatest players and one of Manchester United’s all-time greatest players.”
Significantly, when Rooney broke the record with that stunning free-kick on Saturday, his first thought was not to milk the moment but to urge his team-mates to get the ball out of the net and restart play because United needed a winner. And his pride at his achievement was tinged with frustration United had been held to a draw.
Some United fans have never forgiven Rooney for twice wanting to leave the club – first in 2010 when he felt, with good reason at that stage, they were lacking ambition in the transfer market, and then again in 2013 when he fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson after being left out of certain games.
Wayne Rooney's record-breaking goal in pictures
Sun, January 22, 2017
Click through the gallery for the best snaps of Wayne Rooney's landmark goal
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Click through the gallery for the best snaps of Wayne Rooney's record-breaking goal for Manchester United
Others have used his disciplinary record to mark him down. Compared to Sir Bobby Charlton he’s been no angel, but then Sir Bobby will be the first to admit he never had to tackle because he had ‘minders’ like Nobby Stiles and Paddy Crerand around him.
The two other members of United’s fabled Holy Trinity, Denis Law and George Best, certainly had the devil in them and had frequent run-ins with the authorities, but they are rightly revered for their talent.
Others judge Rooney, now 31, for the player he is now rather than the player he was. The years and number of games have diminished his powers but he still has a contribution to make, while his record may never be beaten. In this day and age very few players either stay at one club for as long as he has, or can sustain a career at the top level as he has.
When Jose Mourinho was asked who could possibly surpass Rooney’s mark he suggested, possibly, Marcus Rashford, because at 18 he has time on his side let alone prodigious talent.
Marcus Rashford could be Wayne Rooney's heir at Manchester United
But to put Rooney’s achievement into perspective, Rashford – who has 14 goals so far – is going to have to score around 20 goals a season for the next 12 years to pass him. And that is going some, especially when injuries and dips in form are factored into the equation.
Apart from his goals, Rooney is only two trophies away from becoming the first British player to complete a clean sweep of football’s top club honours. He has won the World Club Cup, Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Community Shield. That leaves just the Europa League and European Super Cup – both of which United could win this year.
“It is easy to get there but to sustain it and stay at the top for such a long time – that is the quality,” he said. “What defines a top player is that they have sustained it year after year – 10, 15 or 20 years – over the course of their careers. That is why they are top players, and Rooney is definitely one of those guys.”