“The hairs on the back of my neck are going ballistic”... the inimitable Rob Smyth couldn’t contain himself as he documented Manchester United’s 6-2 annihilation of Fenerbahce in the UEFA Champions League on the 28th of September, 2004. The writer wasn’t describing United’s victory though – he had merely been enthralled by the second of three goals scored by an 18-year-old debutant. The young Englishman pooh-poohed critics and naysayers (who’d slammed United for spending £25.6 million on a lad who had just come of age) as he smashed his way to a wondrous debut hat-trick that was to be a taste of things to come.
A garish website, a surprisingly well-done hair-transplant, 13 years, 556 more games and 248 more goals later, Wayne Rooney leaves Manchester United a multiple league winner, a Champions League winner, record goal-scorer, and certified legend.
As he makes his way back to his boyhood club, we take a quirky look back at the United team that lined up (and the subs bench, too) alongside Rooney for one of the most memorable debuts of all time.
Goalkeeper: Roy Carroll
Then: Roy Eric Carroll had been playing for United for three years up till then having ended up at Old Trafford via Hull City (50 apps) and Wigan Athletic (169 apps). The Northern Irishman spent 4 years at United (where he made only 72 apps) before spent spurts of a season or two at West Ham United (35 apps), Rangers (1 app), Derby County (38 apps), Odense (58 apps), OFI Crete (16 apps), Olympiacos (33 apps), and Notts County (84 apps).
If you can't quite place him, think back to Pedro Mendes and one of the greatest goals that never were:
Now: He still plays professional football, aged 39, and stands guard between the posts for Northern Ireland Football League Premiership side Linfield
Quirky Fact: Carroll had a one game managerial career when he managed Barnet to a 2-1 victory in the 2011 Herts Senior Cup final against Stevenage. One game; one trophy. Perfection.