Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A NIGHT THAT WAS THE STUFF OF DREAMS; Wayne Can Be the Greatest in World

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A NIGHT THAT WAS THE STUFF OF DREAMS; Wayne Can Be the Greatest in World

Article excerpt


THREE extraordinary goals on his Champions League debut, four in Euro 2004, a place of honour already reserved among football's immortals.

And Sir Alex Ferguson wants him to be "ordinary".

There is nothing remotely ordinary about Wayne Rooney.

Not his talent, his physique, his salary, his goalscoring record, nothing much ordinary at all apart from the fact that he chews gum and enjoys a burger.

But, for coaches such as Ferguson, a player of Rooney's potential comes along once in a lifetime. So, when you have genius in your ranks, you do all you can to cherish and protect your investment.

"The important thing is to allow the boy to develop naturally, without too much public attention," said the Manchester United manager.

"So I want him to be as ordinary as he can."

It's a noble thought, of course, but our celebrity-obsessed society is unlikely to allow this remarkable 18-year-old the benefit of growing up naturally. That, for Ferguson, is the problem.

Rooney's chances of maturing and becoming the world's greatest footballer - a realistic target - will depend to a large degree on how closely he follows the advice of the father figure of Old Trafford.

Sir Alex has been this way before - first with the precocious Ryan Giggs and later with David Beckham. He nursed them through their teenage years but neither arrived on the scene with anything like Rooney's impact.

The youngest Premiership goalscorer at 16 years and 360 days, he scored four goals in four days for England against Switzerland and Croatia before breaking a metatarsal against Portugal in the quarterfinals of Euro 2004 in June.

That was 14 weeks ago. Last night, having been sold by Everton for [pounds sterling]27million, he resumed normal service with three goals on his United debut.

"You wonder what England might have achieved in Portugal had Wayne not been injured," said Trevor Brooking today. "It's a wonderful boost for Sven and England now that he's fit to play against Wales and Azerbaijan in the World Cup qualifiers next month."

As the Football Association's director of football development, Brooking has a special interest in Rooney's progress and the influence he can have on the next generation of players. …

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