Rarely does a singular moment send such enormous shockwaves through football.
There’s ways of announcing yourself to the world stage, then there’s the way Wayne Rooney did it exactly 15 years ago today.
Rooney, then a naive 16-year-old bristling with blood and guts, was a complete unknown entity back in October 2002 when he was introduced as an 80th minute substitute for Tomasz Radzinski.
Against Arsenal – the champions of England.
Cue utter pandemonium ten minutes later.
The Everton youngster beautifully brought down Lee Carsley’s hopeful hoof forward and turned to establish his bearings.
As the Arsenal defenders fatally backed off, Rooney set his sights and curled a sensational strike in off the crossbar past England number one David Seaman.
As picture book as goals come.
ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley declared animatedly ‘Remember the name!’ and Rooney emphatically made sure we did.
He was the toast of Merseyside after inspiring that 2-1 win but, as we all know, he wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
- Wayne Rooney trains in another pair of beautifully nostalgic Nike boots
- Everyone is loving what Romelu Lukaku and his Man United team-mates did after the final whistle against Benfica
- 9 world-class forwards who scored fewer international goals than Wayne Rooney
And nobody has come even remotely close to making the kind of resonating impact he has and then fulfilling their potential in the years after.
Federico Macheda scored effectively a title-winning goal for Manchester United against Aston Villa in March 2009 and many had high hopes for the Italian.
But Macheda was gone from the public eye before you could say ‘loan spell at Birmingham’.
Marcus Rashford has come the closest to replicating Rooney’s heroics but he has a long way to go to prove his worth.
Rooney’s goal was a sign of things to come, moving to Manchester United and elevating himself to the greatest England player of his generation.
Euro 2004, his partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo, the derby overhead kick, breaking Bobby Charlton’s England and Manchester United records.
All his greatest achievements wouldn’t have been remotely possible without that watershed moment he produced back in 2002.
And at just 16-years-old.
16, for those of you who need reminding, is GCSE year for English students and the age when you’re legally allowed to buy a national lottery ticket.
Well Rooney more than bought the ticket and won the raffle with that strike 15 years ago, propelling him into footballing stardom.
This weekend, rather fittingly, Everton host Arsenal in a mirror image of that career-defining game after Rooney’s return to his boyhood club in the summer.
The Toffees have been abject at best this season but the 31-year-old has proved a rare bright spark, scoring four times in all competitions.
Rooney’s career is coming to an end but he’s shown this campaign there’s life in the old dog yet, so could he produce another memorable moment against one of his favourite foes?
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