“Absolutely brilliant.” was Sir Alex’s reaction to what was probably the greatest goal that has ever been scored at Old Trafford – well, in my lifetime at least. It was a goal that was heralded as the best in the Premier League era. Yes, it was ‘that’ overhead kick by Wayne Rooney back in 2012.
You might say that it is an obvious choice to be anyone’s favorite goal. And of course, there are other brilliant goals in previous Manchester derbies; the free-flowing Barcelona-esque team goal that was finished by a delightful chip over Joe Hart by Nani in the Community Shield that would make Lionel Messi proud and Michael Owen’s 96th winner in the 4-3 win in 2009 – to name a few.
You might notice that the goals I mentioned are ones that are scored just recently. Well, that is because I wasn’t born yet to witness the greatness of Eric Cantona. By the time he graced on to the Old Trafford pitch, I was still in my mother’s womb. I am limited to the old clips on YouTube or GIFs and pictures of his goals.
I was still too young to remember all of Ruud van Nistelrooy. And the only player in my confined memory that can probably match the greatness of King Eric – in my imagination – is probably Ronaldo. But Ronaldo has left and he is now only a distant memory – a player who reminded me of his supernatural powers in the two-legged Madrid tie.
I could have chosen the cheeky chip by Cantona against Sunderland or Ronaldo’s amazing free-kick against Portsmouth, but eventually I opted for neither of them. My favorite goal has to be one that has greater significance than simply being one that was scored in the cheekiest or the most spectacular fashion. Of course in this case, it was the latter. However, Rooney’s goal meant more.
His overhead kick was spectacular, surprising, and as described by the commentators, ‘out of this world’. His jump defied the laws of physics and yet it was instinctive. Nani’s cross had initially taken off a deflection and there was obviously no time to think. He just reacted to the situation and he caught it so sweetly and it smashed into the top corner. One out of a hundred would have gone the same way.
Joe Hart could do nothing about it but to only admire it in awe. That’s what I did.
It was as if the world stood still to watch the sheer greatness of the execution of that goal.
I screamed in pure elation at the television, replayed it over and over again in my head, and talked about it to my mates the following days. It is one of those goals that simply can’t be described by words. It literally is.
It obviously meant a lot to Rooney as well given the rift he had – or has – with some United fans over his comments about the club not fulfilling his ambitions and demanding a transfer request. It demoralized City’s hope of coming back into the game as well as emphasizing United’s hunger for the title. Not to mention, it sprung me back to life.
I have always had this special feeling towards certain players and Rooney is one of them. Ronaldo may be greater than him but Rooney is a player that I have grown accustomed to watching as I grew up that is still in a United shirt.
My dad is the reason behind my support of United. The small glimpses of Van Nistelrooy’s goal-scoring prowess was probably the justification to my support in the early days. I certainly would have liked to witness Cantona, Giggs and Scholes in their early years, and others in real-time so that I could remember them as much as I remember Rooney and Ronaldo.
Those two players are the ones that define my early years of supporting United – as I am still only 15. As to my displeasure, Ronaldo left. His goals certainly made a mark to me as I have witnessed probably the greatest player to grace the pitch these days, if it weren’t for Messi.
And yet, despite all that, Rooney’s overhead kick is still my favorite goal. The significance it brought to the match, to the title race, to him, and to myself as well as many other United fans in the world simply cannot be replaced. It is a goal that I will tell my children in the future over and over again; one that I will remember so vividly and hold so meaningfully.
It is the goal that reminded me of the awesomeness of football.