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Dissected: Road king Rooney's away-goal haul

Wayne Rooney's next away goal in the Premier League will make him a record-breaker. He has scored 87 league goals on the road, the same as Alan Shearer; and although the Geordie's home-and-away total of 260 might be tough for the Scouser to catch – as of Sunday 16 October, he's on 194 – that only makes it the more laudable that Rooney has scored not far shy of half his goals on his travels, for Manchester United and Everton.

And there's some interesting stories in among those goals, too. Controversial strikes back on Merseyside, stunners in the capital, and hat-tricks against more than one hapless opponents. FourFourTwo's number-crunchers and memory-miners present a salute to the United No.10. He may no longer be a shoo-in for club or country, but we certainly did "remember the name"...   

Many will remember Rooney’s first Premier League goal – a late winner at home to Arsenal, at the tender age of 16 – but his first road goal came just two appearances later at Leeds. Again coming off the bench, he turned Eirik Bakke and burst past Lucas Radebe before beating Paul Robinson from just inside the box. 

That was Sunday 3 November 2002, and Rooney was off and running. Later that season he scored at Highbury, and the following campaign he started a notable trend by scoring more away than at home – something he repeated in 2005/06, 2007/08, 2010/11 and 2013/14.


He scored six away goals in 2003/04, with strikes against Charlton, Portsmouth, Leicester and Southampton – the latter conceding his first Premier League brace – before returning to Elland Road for another strike against the relegation-bound Yorkshiremen.


That was his last road goal for Everton. Having joined Manchester United after Euro 2004, he set about scoring against most of their historical rivals – a double at Newcastle, a goal in a win at Manchester City, the winner at Liverpool

The opening game of 2005/06 took him back to Goodison: he scored 27 seconds after the restart when Joseph Yobo, possibly forgetting he’d left, rolled the ball to him in the Everton area. It was the first of nine road goals that season as he scored at Fulham, Sunderland, West Ham, Aston Villa, Birmingham and Tottenham, although the latter were his only victims in the nine away games after New Year. 

His red card during England’s elimination from the 2006 World Cup carried the traditional extra punishment of being blamed by every opposition fan for the latest disappointing exit. It didn’t seem to bother him much as his first road hat-trick helped demolish fourth-placed Bolton 4-0 at the Reebok. A double at Sheffield United followed, but he only scored on two other league trips – to Arsenal and Everton.

In 2007/08 Rooney was again more lethal on the road; he scored just four league goals at Old Trafford and eight away, with new scalps Reading, Middlesbrough and Chelsea, the latter an equaliser in a title-summit meeting. 


Rooney’s 2008/09 was quieter with just the three away goals, at Blackburn, City and the annual Newcastle-bothering (he’d now scored six goals in his last five trips to St James’ Park). But Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Madrid in summer 2009 made Rooney the main man again: he was United’s top league scorer in 2009/10 with 26, of which nine were away, including new victims Wigan and Hull

After a(nother) disappointing World Cup, autumn 2010 brought a different kind of reward with a souped-up five-year contract after an unsubtle dalliance with Manchester City. His home goals dropped off a cliff – from 17 the previous season to just 4 – but he managed 7 on the road, all from New Year’s Day onwards, starting with a first goal at West Brom and peaking with a bristling hat-trick at West Ham as Manchester United won their fourth title in five years to wrest supremacy back from Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea.

The 2011/12 season was a strange one from start to finish, bittersweet despite being the club’s top scorer with a career-high 10 away league goals. Rooney scored in all the opening five league games, including two successive hat-tricks at home to Arsenal and at Bolton. However, he then suffered a three-month league goal drought – and thereafter only scored at home or in London (notching at QPR, Fulham, Chelsea and Spurs).


That was, until the last day of the season, when his goal at Sunderland would have won the league title but for Sergio Aguero’s injury-time intervention for the noisy neighbours. To this day, United have never lifted the title if Rooney has finished top league scorer: his five title wins have been achieved with the top-scoring help of Ronaldo, Dimitar Berbatov and Robin van Persie. 

The Dutchman’s arrival (and Rooney’s various injuries) made 2012/13 a quieter affair, with just five away goals; even the Scouser’s double in the 3-2 win at the Etihad was overshadowed by Van Persie’s late winner.


Manchester United’s 2013/14 campaign was fraught with trouble – the post-Fergie era beginning with the club’s worst league placing since 1990 as David Moyes struggled for success – but Rooney certainly didn’t disappoint the man who had given him his debut all those years ago. He again reached double figures for away goals, marking his territory at Cardiff and Crystal Palace, equalising twice at White Hart Lane and bagging another brace at Upton Park (one from the halfway line). 

He had been captain that day at West Ham and new boss Louis van Gaal formalised his leadership for the 2014/15 season, but for away goals it was Rooney’s least effective campaign since his teens. Of his dozen league goals, just one came away from Old Trafford – although it was a crucial late goal in a win at Arsenal. 

In the 2015/16 season United limped to their lowest league goal total since 1990, and Rooney managed his most meagre input since his breakthrough season: just 8 goals, half of them away, at old rivals Everton, Liverpool and Newcastle. But in Jose Mourinho’s first league game he made Bournemouth the 29th different Premier League team he had scored at, and put him level with Shearer at the top of the away league goalscorers. 

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Gary Parkinson is a freelance writer, editor, trainer, muso, singer, actor and coach. He spent 14 years at FourFourTwo as the Global Digital Editor and continues to regularly contribute to the magazine and website, including major features on Euro 96, Subbuteo, Robert Maxwell and the inside story of Liverpool's 1990 title win. He is also a Bolton Wanderers fan.