Television viewers were treated to the rare sight of Wayne Rooney taking part in some punditry work on Monday evening.
The Everton forward joined Jamie Carragher in the Monday Night Football studio for Chelsea’s trip to Vicarage Road to take on Watford.
Manchester United and England’s record goalscorer reflected on his return to boyhood club Everton, playing with Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United and how their rivals Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola’s formidable Barcelona.
Wayne Rooney was a guest on Monday Night Football alongside Jamie Carragher
Rooney on returning to Everton last summer:
‘I think it was the perfect move for me at this stage of my career. Everton was the right move, it just felt right and I always knew in the back of my head that I wanted to go back there. Although this season hasn’t gone to plan, I’m enjoying being back playing there and trying to help us get better.
‘Getting a good start was important because obviously I had to almost go and prove myself again so it was important I got off to a good start and the header against Stoke really settled everything down. It let me go and enjoy it a bit more rather than getting anxious about when the first goal was going to come.
‘The win over West Ham was a great night, my first hat-trick for Everton. We wanted to win the game for David Unsworth, because he did well and everyone knows he loves the club. We felt like we let him down a little bit with some of our performances, so for his last game to win 4-0 was great for him but for myself to get the hat-trick was a great feeling. I hit my third goal perfectly, I could try and hit it 100 times and not hit it as clean as I did.
Rooney returned to boyhood club Everton last summer and his enjoying being back so far
‘We done well when Sam (Allardyce) came in, he got us back to basics, we were hard to beat and had some good results early on. Over the last few weeks we’ve not been so good but we’re still in a decent position in the league and now need to push on and put that Arsenal defeat behind us and climb a few places.
‘I said at half-time against Arsenal I was actually embarrassed sat on the bench because it wasn’t good enough for what we want. We had to go out second half and try and win it, show some pride in what we’re trying to do and I felt we did that at times but the first half killed the game.
‘I think at the end of the day the managers pay the ultimate price, they get sacked and lose their jobs. But as players we have to take responsibility, we have to perform, managers can only do so much and as a group of players you need to go out on the pitch and make decisions and take ownership on the pitch. It isn’t nice when your manager gets sacked because you know you haven’t done your job properly and we have to try and make sure we don’t let that happen to Sam.
‘Something I naturally do anyway (talk in changing room) over the years. The manager obviously addresses the players but it is something I am comfortable doing. I’ve been around the game a long time so I’d like to think I know the right things to say in certain situations.
Rooney revealed he was embarrassed by Everton’s performance at Arsenal on Saturday
Rooney on Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba:
‘I think Mkhitaryan is in the right place now. I saw it last season in training, he’s a very talented player and at Manchester United he didn’t get the freedom he really wanted to go and perform like he did at Borussia Dortmund. At Arsenal he’ll have players around him that are running off the ball and will take it off him and I think he’ll create and score goals and really kick on.
‘For me Sanchez is the perfect player for United. He’s got aggression, passion, desire and you can see he’s a winner. That’s what they’ve lacked, players around Lukaku that are going to push Lukaku on and try and help him get a bit more freedom and score more goals. Sanchez will do that, they’re the players you want because they lift other players and give them an extra five per cent.
‘For me Pogba is a classic box to box player, he can do a bit of everything really well. If he has that freedom where he doesn’t have to think about defending then he can cause mayhem for teams, he’s so talented. At Juventus he had Pirlo alongside him and I think with Nemanja Matic and one other it will suit him better in a three.
‘I think with Jose Mourinho when he buys a player he plays them. Lukaku and Sanchez will play every game, there’s not room for other strikers to come in and not play.’
Rooney gushed about Alexis Sanchez, claiming he is the ‘perfect player for Manchester United’
Rooney on Manchester City:
‘In terms of catching Manchester City, I think certainly not this season and if I’m being perfectly honest it will be difficult next season because of how City are playing. They’re getting to the level of Barcelona four or five years ago.
‘Not nice to say but if you can’t enjoy that style of football then you won’t enjoy football. It is great to watch, the movement and courage they have on the ball. Its almost perfect football at times.
‘Pep Guardiola is putting the foundations in place trying to emulate that Barcelona team, you can see they’re certainly on the way to doing that. One or two more players in the summer maybe but I don’t think they’re far off. Obviously they have to win the trophies, that’s the main game. But in terms of how they’re playing and punishing teams, they’re not far away.
Rooney admitted he does not feel United will catch Manchester City in the title race next year
He also admitted they are not far off Pep Guardiola’s sublime Barcelona side from years ago
Rooney on himself, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez vs Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane:
‘I think they’re very dangerous. They’ve got a lot of pace and Firmino works really hard in winning the ball back for Liverpool, which is what they want. As good as him and Mane are Salah pips them though because he takes them to the next level.
‘Sir Alex Ferguson used to say to us go and play and attack how you want but when you lose the ball then get back and help out. We had a good compromise because me and Tevez would probably do a lot more defensive work than Cristiano but we knew in the big games and moments he would win them.
‘With any other player we probably wouldn’t have done it but Cristiano was that good you have to accommodate that. I would gladly sacrifice goals any day of the week if he is going to help us win trophies.
‘I think it would be difficult to match us. The difference we had is obviously Premier league winners medals and we had real quality behind us who would support us in different ways and the defence was solid. For those three to get to that level they need that wall behind them to help them flourish a bit more.
Rooney revealed himself and Carlos Tevez were happy to do Cristiano Ronaldo’s ugly work
The Everton man claimed Mohamed Salah was the standout player of Liverpool’s lively attack
Rooney on Harry Kane:
‘His mentality is fantastic, he’s strong. He wants to score goals and win and at the moment he is probably the best striker in Europe. I think for Harry Kane, he can go where he wants to, he’s that good. He’s almost like a young Alan Shearer, scoring different types of goal.
‘The problem Tottenham will have is his motivation is going to change from goals to winning trophies. If Spurs can’t win trophies in the next few years then he’ll want to go elsewhere where he can. Goals are great and take you to a certain level but the top players are remembered for what they’ve won.
‘Trophies take you on to that next level, I think if Kane was in City’s team and was going to win the Premier League then people would be talking about Ronaldo, Messi and Kane.
‘I’ve played with him a few times for England, it hurts him when you don’t win and you can’t say that about all the players. He’s the natural leader in that England team now and if you have to name a captain then he really has to wear the armband. If England are to do well this summer than it depends how Kane does.’
Rooney tipped Harry Kane to lead England at this summer’s World Cup in Russia
Rooney on his bicycle kick against Manchester City:
‘It was a huge game because us and City were both going for the title but it was probably one of the worst games I’ve played to be fair. The ball took a bit of a deflection as it came into the box and I realised I was in a bit of space and just hit it.
‘It was surreal. I ran off after I scored and I always remember going into the dressing room and the players and staff were in shock. It was just a strange feeling I’d never really had. To be honest I’m sick of it, the amount of people who come up with pictures of that goal. ‘It’s of course a goal that I’m proud of.’
Rooney admitted his bicycle kick against Manchester City is his greatest Premier League goal
Rooney on starting at Everton before leaving for United:
‘Raw, fearless. I think I just loved football, just wanted to play for Everton and win. Whether that was hurting players, running through them then that’s what I wanted to do. I knew when I got into Everton’s first team at 16 I knew I was the best player at the club. I knew I should have been playing.
‘I was raging when David Moyes left me on the bench in my first Merseyside derby, I couldn’t understand why he’d leave me on the bench.
‘Leaving for United was probably the most difficult decision I’ve had to make in my career. United had the pull of the Champions League, Sir Alex, Giggs, Scholes and I thought there was no way Everton could challenge in those competitions.
‘Everton were in trouble and needed the money and it was the right decision. It was nervy when I first walked in but I knew Rio (Ferdinand), Wes Brown, Scholesy, Gaz (Neville) from England so was comfortable going into the dressing room. I had an argument with Roy Keane on my first away trip. Roy was watching the rugby before Newcastle away. He went to get his food so I turned it over to the X Factor and then hid the remote. He respected me more after because I was big enough to have a go back at him.’
Rooney knew when he got into Everton’s first team at 16 that he was the best player at the club
Rooney and Roy Keane fell out after the young forward switched from rugby to The X Factor
Rooney on his Old Trafford strike partners:
‘Ruud (van Nistelrooy) was brilliant, probably still the best finisher I’ve played with. He was ruthless, like Harry Kane he just loves scoring. We’d win 4-0 and he’d be miserable if he didn’t score. In the second season you could see there were a few issues with Cristiano (Ronaldo) and one of them had to give and Sir Alex made the right decision in the end.
‘At that time Ronaldo was nowhere near the level he is now but Ruud was used to David Beckham and Ryan Giggs getting the ball down and crossing it in but then Ronaldo came in, kept chopping back inside and Ruud grew frustrated. It was probably the right time for him to move on and then we came through as the next generation.
Ruud van Nistelrooy was described as ‘probably the best finisher I’ve played with’ by Rooney
‘In terms of goals maybe Ronaldo may have scored more than me but if you’ve got Ronaldo in your team you don’t take away what he is best at and that’s being fresh to go and score a goal. You don’t ask him to chase people down because it will take a lot away from his game. It took away from me as well but at the time he was more dangerous and I didn’t mind doing that.
‘Robin (van Persie) was brilliant, the first season especially. He was one of the, if not the main, reasons we won the league that year. Sir Alex made it clear he was his number one striker. He scored important goals, away at Anfield and Chelsea, the day we won the league he scored a hat-trick. It was a shame we didn’t get him a bit earlier.
‘(Carlos) Tevez would be my preferred partner, we suited each others games and we worked off each other. I always remember it must have been horrible for defenders to play against us because we were always in opponents’ faces. People said we couldn’t play together but we hit it off, played well together and I really enjoyed it.’
Rooney’s preferred partner was Carlos Tevez though as they suited each other’s games well
Rooney on his best position:
‘I think was a number nine, I think I had instinct to get into the box, could drop back in with runners beyond me but as a nine that’s where I wanted to be, scoring goals in the box.
‘If you play it wide you know you’ve got to get into the box whereas a 10 you can hang out on the edge. I always got frustrated because I didn’t score many headers but trained with Mike Phelan, worked on it for about two or three months and then I scored one and they just kept coming. I’m not the tallest but what he worked on was my timing, getting across defenders, giving the defender a nudge before you jump.
‘I’ve always known I would drop deeper and always believed in my ability to play in midfield. I tried to learn and study how to play in that role from Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes for instance knowing that would help me.
Rooney revealed he thought playing as a central striker was his best position and not No 10
Rooney on Sir Alex Ferguson:
‘His man management was his greatest quality without doubt. As a manager he was in my opinion the best but, as a man manager, a lot of others would have struggled to match him. He knew the ins and outs of everyone, knew how to get a reaction out of them and could leave someone out but they’d still think he was great.
‘He knew how to get a reaction from me. There were so many times where at half-time I’d played well and we had players who hadn’t played so well and he’d always come at me. We had shouting matches in the dressing room, but he knew he’d get a reaction on the pitch. He’d tell me to stop dribbling but he’d actually be aiming it at Nani, he was clever like that.
‘I was one of the players who didn’t take being left out well. We’d have disagreements over leaving me out, that’s good, players and managers in football should have debates.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s man management was his ‘greatest quality’, according to Rooney
‘At times it was really simple, he’d just tell us to go and win the game. If we had someone sent off, players would have to work out how to change things on the pitch. But in the big games, that’s when he’d do certain things. When you’re going forward get it wide, second balls, sustain attacks. You’re almost suffocating the defence. They might hold on for 70 or 80 minutes but they’d end up dead on their feet and we’d get a late goal.
Rooney on his goal records:
‘It was a relief when it came (Manchester United record), it was starting to get on my nerves a bit. All the talk before games was “is he going to get it today?”. It was a great moment with Bobby Charlton in the crowd but I’m sure he’s disappointed but a bit of him is pleased as well. I never looked at myself as a goal scorer growing up but as a football player wanting to play. I didn’t think I’d finish as the record goal scorer.
‘It was an emotional day for me, again as I said before there was lot of talk about breaking it. It was a relief to get it (England record) and I actually had a tear in my eye on the pitch and never thought that would happen. I was really proud, never thought it would be something I’d do. It’s great to look at and my children can look at those records and enjoy them. It’s a good feeling.
Rooney admitted to having a tear in his eye when he became England’s record goalscorer
Rooney on international tournaments:
‘I think Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup we were unlucky to lose on penalties but the 2006 tournament if I went back and was in that position again then I would have ruled myself out of going. I had the broken foot, I wasn’t fit because I hadn’t trained and Jermain Defoe had travelled. They got to Germany, then I flew out and he flew back and I felt bad about that.
‘Then when you don’t have that match sharpness you make rash decisions which could have cost us the game and then we went out on penalties. I was a young lad, wanted to play and the last tournament had ended in disappointment. I wanted to prove myself at international level and it didn’t work out. It was very weird when I got sent off. If we got through I’d have missed the semi-final and final but if we lost it was all my fault.
Rooney had no problem with Cristiano Ronaldo for getting him sent off at the 2006 World Cup
‘That 2006 team we were capable of winning the World Cup. I spoke to Ronaldo after the game in the tunnel and I said “the press want to make a thing of it but don’t worry, I’d have done exactly the same thing”.
‘I tried to get him booked in the first half for diving. He was my club team mate but during England vs Portugal he was a rival and I would have tried to get him sent off as well.
Rooney on his toughest opponents:
‘I have to say John Terry. The first six or seven years playing against him, he was strong, not the quickest but was always in the right position. I always struggled to get past him, he was never in a position to get exposed.
‘Carra is up there, I got a few stitches and scars from him. Away at Anfield, you get kicked and know you’re struggling but you don’t want to show any emotion. I had to go off when he caught me once. That’s the one stadium I want to go and win at, obviously growing up as an Everton fan and playing for United that’s where I used to get the most joy from winning. Anfield and Stamford Bridge under Mourinho the first time. If you won the game it would be ugly, you’d nick a goal late on. You don’t enjoy the game of football there.’
Rooney on the future:
‘I’d like to go into management, I’ve been involved in football for my whole life and that’s what I know and would like to continue to do. I’m sure I’ll do a lot more TV work in the future but my ultimate is to go into football management.
Rooney admitted Carragher and John Terry were the toughest opponents he faced