Wayne Rooney, for so long burdened by Manchester United record, seals it in spectacular style

Richard Jolly reports on Manchester United's 1-1 Premier League draw with Stoke City – a match that saw Wayne Rooney become Manchester United's all-time leading goalscorer.

Wayne Rooney celebrates his equalising goal against Stoke City — a goal that made him Manchester United’s all-time leading goalscorer. Rui Vieira / AP Photo
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In an instant, it was Wayne’s World once again, a reminder of the coruscating brilliance that first marked him out, but a moment that made an indelible impression in Manchester United’s record books.

Wayne Rooney 250, Bobby Charlton 249: the leaderboard has changed. History has been rewritten. Fittingly, it was done in glorious style.

Rooney, 31, had drawn level with Charlton in seemingly fortunate fashion, scoring with his knee against Reading. He overhauled the World Cup winner with a touch of class, an injury-time free kick that arrowed in from the left flank. Stoke City’s Lee Grant had no chance.

“A great goal,” United manager Jose Mourinho said. “A little bit of magic,” said Mark Hughes, his Stoke counterpart. “Wayne thoroughly deserves his place in the history books of this great club,” Alex Ferguson said, as the great and good of United’s past and present queued up to pay tribute.

“Wayne is a true great for club and country, and it is fitting that he is now the highest goalscorer for both United and England,” said Charlton, stripped of two distinctions in as many years by Rooney, but a great advocate of the younger man. “I must admit that I have become used to the honour of being the club’s all-time top goalscorer.”

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As a World Cup winner and a European Footballer of the Year, Charlton’s legacy is secure even as he sits in second place. Now Rooney has added another concrete achievement to go with the Uefa Champions League and five Premier League titles he has won at Old Trafford.

Yet Rooney had limped towards his place in history, slowed by the magnitude of the impending achievement. It affected him, Mourinho said, “for too long, since the beginning of the season.” Ever the pragmatist, he said: “You should talk about Wayne’s record for 24 hours and then finish and then let him be a normal guy.”

Rooney and normality parted company a decade-and-a-half ago, however. He was too precocious, signed by Ferguson at 18. His first United goal came in a match-winning hat-trick, his 250th as a declining player in a salvage act. A 16-game unbeaten run was ending until Joe Allen fouled Marcus Rashford and the substitute Rooney stepped up. Many a United grandee was delighted to see him score. As Stoke manager, Hughes’ appreciation was tinged with disappointment.

“It is unbelievable,” he said. “Sir Bobby’s record stood for 40-odd years. A lot of good strikers have come and gone in that time and not got anywhere near it.”

He was well-placed to testify. A United great in his own right, he mustered 163 goals in two spells at Old Trafford: enough to put him ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, Eric Cantona and Ruud van Nistelrooy, but behind Denis Law, Charlton and Rooney.

Juan Mata is some 217 adrift of Rooney. The Spaniard opened his account for Stoke, albeit in unwanted fashion. The United midfielder applied a telling touch to Erik Pieters’ low cross, a mistake he compounded by missing an open goal.

“We risk losing the match by scoring in our own goal,” Mourinho said. “The opponent score without creating one single chance and for us to score we have to create six or seven. We lost two points.”

Even with Rooney’s rescue act, it was a chance spurned by United, a result that reduces their chances of Champions League qualification. They paid for a mediocre start; even Rooney’s pleasure was qualified, though.

“It is a huge honour,” he said. “It means a lot.”

The last word, however, should perhaps go to his predecessor.

“Now he’s the man to beat,” Charlton said. “And I can’t see anybody doing that for a long, long time.”

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