Rooney strike — wonder goal or shinpad special?
Wayne Rooney’s overhead scissors kick goal to win the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Saturday has sparked a tidal wave of hyperbole in the British media, with “wonder goal” the most popular tag used to describe it.
The general consensus was not that it was just the nailed-on winner for “goal of the season” but was also the best of Rooney’s career and even the best ever seen at Old Trafford.
There must be some short memories in the north-west. The hundreds of thousands of fans who witnessed George Best score stupendous goals of every type – the vast majority never televised and enjoyed once and once only by those in the ground – will shake their heads in disbelief at how such a sweeping statement can quickly attract such currency.
There is no question that it was a great goal that took athleticism, confidence and precise skill – but even with all three of those elements in place it still looked as if the ball flew into the top corner off Rooney’s shin pad rather than his boot.
His own description of it as the best he’d scored was immediately tempered by him saying: “Nine times out of 10 they go into the stand.”
Fans of the goal say that is precisely why it was so special, because such attempts rarely come off. Others might suggest that the sheer hit-or-miss nature of such goals make them less impressive than, to pick just one example, Rooney’s own immaculately conceived and delivered curler for Everton against Arsenal that announced the 16-year-old to the world.
It is of course impossible to directly compare a 30-metre screamer with a bullet header or an immaculately-executed five-man, length-of-the field passing move that ends with a simple tap-in but there is something about overhead kicks that sends the English soccer Press and public into a frenzy.
Rooney’s United team mate Dimitar Berbatov looped a shot over his shoulder in his hat-trick for United against Liverpool in September, his standing leg barely leaving the ground, and the same wave of astonished adulation washed down upon him.
Perhaps it is because traditionally there have been so few of them and they still have that sophisticated foreign appeal that produced similar amazement at South American “banana kicks” of the 1960s that are now a daily occurrence at all levels of English soccer.
Hugo Sanchez used to score them for fun for Real Madrid and Mexico, spending hours on the training ground perfecting the technique, with a mattress to ease his landings.
Rooney’s strike, call it a “Chilena”, “bicicleta” or whatever you like, was pretty spectacular but “Goal of the Century” — even the 11-short years of this one — it was not.
PHOTO: Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring against Manchester City with teammate Nani during their English Premier League match at Old Trafford , February 12, 2011. REUTERS/Darren Staples