Wayne Rooney. What does a man have to do to earn a nation’s respect?

Wayne Rooney. What does a man have to do to earn a nation’s respect?

A question that must meander through Wayne Rooney’s mind each night as he battles against stubborn criticism of the player who is now both his club and his country’s record goalscorer.

It’s likely Rooney will have more time to ponder that thought on Thursday night, with a place on the Manchester United substitutes’ bench the expected reward for hitting the 250-goal mark for the Red Devils at Stoke last weekend, breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s landmark in the process.

Perched in the KCOM Stadium dugout, fresh from hearing Jose Mourinho, his manager, confess that he would consider selling the striker to China.

Wondering… “don’t I deserve a little bit more?”

Rooney’s 250 goals for United – spread across 12-and-a-half years and seven competitions – sets a record which is almost insurmountable in an age of mercenary footballers. If it is ever beaten, it will be a status quo-defying act.

Only four men have even passed the 200 barrier for United, let’s not forget, and aside from Rooney none of them kicked a ball about professionally after 1980.

He’s been a constant match-winner for his club, with 56 of his goals coming in the final 15 minutes of matches, and he’s netted eight hat-tricks over the course of his time at Old Trafford – including two against Bolton and a four-goal return in a game against Hull.

The former Evertonian has won five Premier League titles, two League Cups, the FA Cup and Champions League with United. He’s captained his team, scored crucial goals and – while not always acting as a role model off the field – has matured with age.

Last week, it was revealed that he would be donating £1.2million, raised from his summer testimonial against Evertonian, to four children’s charities.

In November, he sent his match-worn England shirt to a terminally ill fan whose case had become prominent on social media.

Degraded in some places as PR-driven narcissism, this was nothing like self-aggrandisement.

It was community spirit. And it deserved applause.

Yet he continues not to get the ovation his record warrants.

With England, he may not have hit the heights of performance at major tournaments which were promised by his show-stealing display at Euro 2004 – metatarsals and mindlessness defined his Three Lions career from then on in – yet he is still the most accomplished goal-getter in his nation’s footballing history.

To have beaten a player like Charlton – a World Cup winner and knight of the realm – on both the domestic and international fronts, and in fewer games, should highlight just how significant his achievement is.

Seven more England caps will make him not only the most prolific goalscorer for his country but also the all-time record appearance maker, overtaking Peter Shilton.

Over the course of his career – for club and country – he has netted 320 times in 742 appearances, all of which have been at the highest level of the game.

None of this can be achieved by any old fool.

None of this is a result of mediocrity.

We’d do well to remember that.

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