LONDON: Wayne Rooney became Manchester United’s record goal scorer when he netted his 250th goal for the English giants in a 1-1 draw away to Stoke City in the Premier League on Saturday.
Rooney equalised in the fourth minute of stoppage time at the Britannia Stadium to break fellow England great Bobby Charlton’s United record of 249 goals.
The 31-year-old forward, making his 546th United appearance, surpassed 1966 World Cup-winner Charlton’s record in style when he bent a free-kick past Stoke goalkeeper Lee Grant into the top corner of the net at the Britannia Stadium.
His latest United goal came a fortnight after Rooney, who succeeded Charlton as England’s record goal-scorer in 2015, equalled the former midfielder’s United mark during an FA Cup tie against second-tier Reading.
“It means a hell of a lot,” Rooney, who joined United from Everton in 2004, said afterwards.
“It is a great honour and I am very proud,” added the Liverpool-born Rooney, who made his name as an out-and-out striker but has been deployed lately as an attacking midfielder.
“It is difficult at the minute to be over-pleased because of the result but in the grand scheme it is huge honour. It is not something I expected when I joined. As I said before, I am proud and I hope there is more to come.
“The players who have played for this club have been world class. I am proud to play for this club. To be all-time goal scorer is a huge honour.”
Rooney’s goal could yet proved important in the context of United’s season, with Jose Mourinho’s men battling to break into the top four and bring Champions League football back to Old Trafford next season.
“It could be vital come the end of the season,” said Rooney of a draw against a Stoke side managed by former United striker Mark Hughes.
“It is not nice to lose and it looked like being the case. But we got a point that could be vital. There is a long way to go. A lot can happen. We have to keep picking up points.”
United manager Jose Mourinho said the record allowed Rooney to be termed a legend.
“The record is the record. It is the record of the biggest club in England and one of the biggest in the world,” said the Portuguese coach.
“Before him the record belonged to a legend of English football. Now Wayne becomes a legend of Manchester United.”
United had gone behind to a lame goal in the 19th minute.
Erik Pieters was picked out by Marko Arnautovic’s astute pass and his low cross was deflected past David De Gea by Mata at his near post.
With Marouane Fellaini recalled to the starting line-up, it was clear United would adopt a direct approach and it almost got them straight back into the game when Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s control in front of goal let him down badly at the crucial moment.
Mata’s afternoon then went from bad to worse when he missed a glaring opportunity to atone for his earlier mishap on the half hour.
Paul Pogba’s vision picked out Ibrahimovic bursting forward and he laid the equaliser on a plate for the Spaniard with his cross to the far post, but Mata somehow contrived to scoop it over a gaping net from just inside the six-yard box.
It was all one-way traffic in the closing stages of the first half as United pressed hard for an equaliser and Stoke were indebted to Lee Grant.
First, the keeper reacted smartly to tip over a volley from Fellaini and then from the resulting corner he denied Pogba with another fine save.
The pattern of play didn’t change after the break, but it wasn’t long before Mourinho had seen enough as Rashford was sent on in place of Fellaini.
Pieters and Mata were then involved in another incident which resulted in United having furious appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Mark Clattenburg.
The Stoke defender got across to block Mata’s attempt at goal from a Pogba cross, but the ball clearly struck his outstretched arm in doing so.
United hung their heads in frustration when Jesse Lingard beat Grant with a long-range effort, but watched as it clipped the bar.
However, their persistence eventually got its reward deep into injury time when Rooney struck with his free-kick from wide on the left.