For Premier League players however, they’re shared with millions, and that has to make them that extra bit special. What am I referring to? It’s the ‘signature goal’ of course. That one moment when you walk with the Gods, and people watching give an acknowledging nod to your brief grasp at immortality. Wayne Rooney had just one of those moments on Saturday.
It had been a pretty tepid season for United and their fans. Not sated by the glory years of Ferguson, getting accustomed to less auspicious circumstances was always going to be a bit of a trial, but perhaps not many thought it would be this difficult. All chances of retaining the league title have gone. A top four position is a distant dream, and even the Europa League could still be a struggle. For a moment, however (an all-too-brief moment) none of that mattered as Wayne Rooney produced something special. Something oh, so special.
As soon as he struck the ball, there was a hush for a second or two as it arced through the air. Its trajectory caused anxiously backtracking West Ham goalkeeper Adrian to fall over as he glanced up at where he thought the ball should be, and then found it elsewhere. The disorientation caused him to stumble over. As he fell, he watched the ball bounce into the net. Silence no more. The crowd erupted as they realised they had seen something special. Something about which people would proudly say, “I saw that live.” It was the moment when Wayne Rooney echoed that famous Beckham goal – slotting home a shot from just inside his own half over Wimbledon’s Neil Sullivan all those years ago. The television cameras panned to one of the boxes in the stadium. An impressed Beckham merely sat and smiled.
I happened to be watching a slice of the game on a large screen in a pub on the outskirts of Birmingham. It had already been an exceptionally special day for me. My beautiful daughter had just got married and we were attending a ‘pie and pint’ gathering for speeches before moving on to the main reception. I’d completed my ‘Father of the Bride’ speech and was now relaxed as I sat with the Manchester-United-supporting-bride and a few other family members to catch a brief view of the game. It had been fairly mundane fare with United beginning to dominate an outgunned West Ham, when a ball was played up towards Rooney on the right-hand side of the halfway line. In a trice, he turned the defending Tomkins, and launched into his strike.
When the ball hit the back of the net, the pub also erupted and those not watching quickly gathered to see what had a happened. Some even applauded, not that Rooney could hear them as his happy, slightly embarrassed little boy look filled the screen. My daughter looked at me. “That’s my wedding present from Wayne,” she beamed. I nodded.
Rooney didn’t run towards the camera and lift up his shirt to reveal a vest underneath inscribed with the phrase “Congrats Megan & Luke. Love from Wayne” but he might as well have done. By the time the interviews happened after the game, we were long gone and never heard what he said in answer to the ritual question, “What was going through your mind…..” I had no need to hear it however. I’m pretty convinced of how Rooney would have answered. He’d have said that he had my daughter in mind and wanted to make her special day just that little bit more outstanding.
“Congratulations to Luke and Megan from Wayne Rooney”, signed not with a signature, but with a signature goal!
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