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All’s well in Wayne’s world

Prolific Rooney achieves superstar status

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Their images, etched with determination and resolve, glare out from the cover of the German release of the FIFA 10 video game, but their paths will not cross at the Allianz Arena. In-form Bastian Schweinsteiger is suspended for Tuesday’s Champions League meeting between Bayern and Manchester United, leaving the stage clear for Wayne Rooney to play the starring role.

“Wayne Rooney is a superb footballer,” praised Bayern boss Louis van Gaal on Monday. The 24-year-old England international has a phenomenal 33 goals to his name already this term, 17 of them in the last 12 matches. His 26 league goals already surpass his previous personal best from 2005-6 by fully ten goals. “We’re never afraid of a single player, but we appreciate his quality,” continued Van Gaal, “shutting him out will be very difficult.”

Pro debut at 16

United’s Round of 16 opponents AC Milan were unable to suppress the Liverpool-born striker, who struck a brace in both legs of the duel with the Italian giants. Rooney has made a huge contribution to last year’s beaten finalists, winners of the trophy in 1999 and 2008, reaching the last eight for the fourth time in a row. “Wayne is obsessed and always wants to improve. He’s in sensational form at the moment,” Sir Alex Ferguson enthused.

The son of a noted amateur boxer, Rooney loves the sport “and I sometimes box for a while after training, as a good way of releasing aggression,” he says. But he opted for football, and has packed more into the early years of his development than most players manage in an entire career. He was spotted early on as an exceptional talent; his coach when he was ten correctly predicted he would play for England before he was 18. Rooney made his Premier League debut for Everton while still 16. Five days before his 17th birthday, he hit Everton’s winner in a 2-1 victory over Arsenal, ending the league leaders’ 30-match unbeaten run and becoming the youngest-ever scorer in the English top flight at the time.

Best in the centre

The big-money offers inevitably flowed in, and in summer 2004 the man christened Roonaldo by the tabloids switched to United for a reported GBP 26 million, then a record for a player aged under 20. Rooney marked his arrival in Manchester with a hat-trick on his debut against Fenerbahce in the Champions League. The stocky and explosive striker now has 130 goals in a United shirt.