Manchester United have confirmed the inevitable departure of Wayne Rooney after 13 years of service.
The former skipper rejoins boyhood club Everton on a two-year deal, the side he left Merseyside for back in 2004.
His move to Manchester was a club record at the time, and he was certainly worth every penny upon reflection.
Making 559 appearances over the course of his stay at Old Trafford, Rooney was granted a testimonial back in 2016 against Everton, having skippered United for the latter three years of his remarkable spell at the club.
This spell included 253 goals, surpassing Sir Bobby Charlton’s record in the process, doing so with a wonderfully executed free-kick away at Stoke City back in January to help rescue a point in the final minute of stoppage time in true United fashion.
The first of those record-breaking strikes came on his debut, when a then 18 year old exploded onto the scene with a mesmerising hat-trick under the lights at Old Trafford in a 5-2 demolition of Fenerbahce in the Champions League.
Other notable moments when finding the net included bagging in the match that ended the Arsenal Invincibles unbeaten record that same season, a side he enjoyed facing, with further favourites his swept finish to round off a Nani counter-attack in 2010, delicate dink when captain to secure the win in 2014 and hat-trick in the 8-2 obliteration three years prior.
Further opposition he enjoyed a fine return against include the likes of Aston Villa, Manchester City, Newcastle, Portsmouth and West Ham, with his thunderbolt against the Magpies in front of the Stratford End when venting at the referee a poignant moment.
He played an integral part in one of the most exciting United sides of recent times, as his pace, power and hunger alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov saw Sir Alex Ferguson boast a plethora of options in attack.
In a side that secured the 2008 Champions League before going on to a third league title in as many years the following season; the 5-2 comeback victory against Tottenham Hotspur was a notable fixture to which this attack showed their worth with Rooney of course centre stage, assisting and scoring for fun, going from number eight to the iconic number 10 as part of a transition that saw United dominant once more.
During a period that saw him grab more headed goals in one month than in his entire career to date at that point, his last minute glance against City secured a Wembley berth in the league cup final to which he scored the winner against Villa after appearing as a first half substitute.
That spell in early 2010 also saw him score all four in a rout of Hull City before he was back with a bang 12 months later in stupendous style…
The World Cup in South Africa was a testing time for Rooney amongst the mounting pressure from England fans to produce, with speculation about his future to follow later that year.
If there is a way to hit the right notes once more, however, his spectacular overhead winner in the derby v City in February 2011, accompanied by that iconic celebration, saw Rooney make the headlines for the right reasons once more.
Who can forget his title-securing penalty away at Blackburn Rovers in the front of the travelling support as the Evertonian saw Liverpool’s 18 title record broken at Ewood Park.
His passion earlier in the season landed him in hot water at West Ham but his hat-trick as United came from two down to win 4-2 was a defining moment in such season.
Another fruitful return in front of goal then followed, before showing his selflessness once more, happy to play second fiddle to Robin van Persie as he did Ronaldo in years previous, producing that pinged pass for the Dutchman’s volley in another match that secured another title, one of 11 major honours that Rooney won along the way.
Being named club captain by incoming manager Louis van Gaal was a special moment for the man who also holds the record for most goals scored for the England national side, but as he approached 30, having broken onto the scene at such a young age, his legs began to feel the burden of playing at the top level for such a prolonged period.
As the doubts crept in, Rooney did show some form at the start of 2016, including a late winner at Anfield, before lifting the FA Cup for the first time in his illustrious career in May.
The only trophy left for the striker to win at club level was the Europa League, and he nestled both hands on such honour 12 months later, as this triumph was also the first in such competition in the club’s history.
With Jose Mourinho unable to guarantee Rooney significant game time and a World Cup on the horizon, the Portuguese boss granted a departing wish for the latter to rejoin Everton, with the club waiving a transfer fee out of respect for the service his has given to England’s most successful club.
Speculation linking Rooney with a move to America or China can be dismissed, a sensible move that avoids uprooting his young family and allows them to remain settled.
The debate as to whether he is a United great or legend will go on for years to come, but the fact that these two categories are the only options speaks volumes of his stature and place amongst the club.
We wish Wayne all the best going forward and thank him for his tremendous service and hard work during a special 13 years.