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‘It means a lot,’ – record-breaking Rooney

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Striker Wayne Rooney (C) celebrates scoring the equalising goal and his 250th goal for Manchester United on January 21, 2017 © AFP / Lindsey PARNABY

STOKE-ON-TRENT, United Kingdom, Jan 21Wayne Rooney became Manchester United’s record scorer when he netted his 250th goal for the English giants in a 1-1 draw at Stoke on Saturday, saying the landmark meant “a hell of a lot.”

Rooney equalised in the fourth minute of stoppage time 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 attacking-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.

“The players who have played for this club have been world class. I am proud to play for this club. To be all-time goalscorer is a huge honour.”

– ‘Legend’ –

United manager Jose Mourinho said: “The record is the record. It is the record of the biggest club in England and one of the biggest in the world. Before him the record belonged to a legend of English football. Now Wayne becomes a legend of Manchester United.”

Manchester United’s English striker Wayne Rooney (L) on January 7, 2017 and Manchester United’s English striker Bobby Charlton (R) in Mexico City on May 25, 1970 Wayne Rooney equalled Bobby Charlton’s Manchester United scoring record of 249 goals in all competitions as his side crushed ex-United defender Jaap Stam’s Reading 4-0 in the FA Cup third round on January 7, 2017. © AFP/File / Oli SCARFF

Charlton, while disappointed to lose a record that had stood for more than four decades, said he was “delighted” it was Rooney who had deprived him of the landmark.

“It’s over 40 years since I scored the last of my 249 goals for Manchester United, so I must admit that I have become used to the honour of being the club’s all-time top goalscorer!,” Charlton told the club’s website.

“I would be lying to say that I’m not disappointed to have lost the record.

“However, I can honestly say that I’m delighted for Wayne. He deserves his place in the history books,” added Charlton, who saw Rooney surpass him as England’s record goal-scorer in 2015.

“He is a true great for club and country, and it is fitting that he is now the highest goalscorer for both United and England.”

Alex Ferguson, the United manager who signed Rooney from Liverpool, said: “I would like to say huge congratulations to Wayne on reaching this milestone.

“It is no mean feat to score so many goals and he breaks a record that has stood for over 40 years. Wayne thoroughly deserves his place in the history books of this great club and I am sure that he will go on to score many more goals.”

– ‘Not done yet’ –

It was a view endorsed by Charlton, who said Rooney was young enough to build goal tally that would last as long as his own United record.

“I was 35 when I retired,” said Charlton. “Wayne is only 31 and still going strong, so I don’t think he’s done by a long stretch yet…Now he’s the man to beat, and I can’t see anybody doing that for a long, long time.”

Rooney’s goal could yet prove important in the context of United’s season, with the Red Devils battling to break into the top four and bring Champions League football back to Old Trafford next season.

“It is not nice to lose and it looked like being the case,” said Rooney of a draw against a Stoke side managed by former United striker Mark Hughes. “But we got a point that could be vital.”

Rooney’s late leveller came after United’s Juan Mata turned the ball past his own ‘keeper to give Stoke a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute.

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