Wayne Rooney has moved level with Sir Bobby Charlton as Manchester United’s all-time leading goalscorer.
The 31-year-old’s FA Cup strike against Reading took him to 249 in 543 games, reaching the landmark 215 matches and four seasons quicker than Charlton.
The record had stood since 1973 but Rooney now seems certain to beat it.
In 2015, Rooney surpassed World Cup winner Charlton’s England scoring record of 49 goals and has since taken his tally to 53.
The United landmark comes during a season in which the England captain has been left out of the starting line-up for both club and country, his record-equalling goal being just his fourth of the campaign.
How has Rooney done it?
The signs were there from the very start that Rooney’s could be a stellar Old Trafford career.
In his first game following a £27m move from Everton in 2004, he scored a hat-trick against Fenerbahce in a 6-2 Champions League win.
He has not looked back since, reaching double figures in every season at the club, including a career-high 34 in all competitions in 2009-10 and 2011-12.
How his scoring record compares
Rooney and Charlton are ahead of some of the finest players that the club and British football has ever known.
But Rooney’s goals have not come at the fastest rate. Tommy Taylor, who was a two-time title winner with United in the 1950s, holds that honour, just ahead of former Netherlands international Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Where does Rooney rank in list of Man Utd greats?
Rooney has secured his place in Manchester United history and Old Trafford’s hall of greats with his record-equalling goalscoring feats.
However, he will have to resign himself to never being held in the same esteem, and place of legend, as the likes of Charlton, George Best and Denis Law.
Indeed, despite his lofty place in United’s record books, the 31-year-old will never be revered by United’s supporters in the same manner as the maverick Old Trafford catalyst Eric Cantona, the great leaders Roy Keane and Bryan Robson, and brilliant home-grown products such as Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.
This may seem brutally unfair given his contribution to United’s successes, but there are several factors at work when his place in the club’s historical affections is measured.
Rooney was an expensive import from Merseyside, while Charlton, who survived the 1958 Munich air disaster, led United to their first European Cup in 1968 and stands alongside his great mentor Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson as an iconic Old Trafford figure.
Best and Law came alongside Charlton as United’s ‘Holy Trinity’ as the club emerged from the tragedy of Munich, while Cantona was the great transformer in the early 90s and the likes of Robson and Keane were world-class players and warriors.
Rooney’s chequered history with the club and its fans will also have an impact on his legacy when his contribution to United – a truly great one when judged solely in a football context – is reflected upon.
In many eyes, Rooney will never quite be forgiven for the episode in October 2010 when he decided he wanted to leave, then further strained his relationship with club and fans by issuing a statement which effectively said United lacked ambition and questioned the quality of his team-mates.
This was resolved within days when he signed a new five-year-contract, but the memory has lingered for many. There was another disagreement late in the 2012-13 season as Ferguson prepared for retirement and made it clear Rooney again wanted to leave – a claim that led to the player being jeered by some fans as he collected his title winner’s medal at Old Trafford.
Fans and those who record history and legends take these matters into account.
What must also be remembered is that Rooney has had a stellar United career littered with trophies, brilliance and game-changing moments. He fully deserves to be remembered as one of the greats of Old Trafford.
There will, however, be many more remembered before him.