Rooney vs Charlton: Whose Manchester United scoring record is better?
4. Trophies won
Wayne Rooney: 9 (five league titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups, one European Cup)
Bobby Charlton: 5 (three league titles, one FA Cup, one European Cup)
Tragedy struck in February 1958 and a team that appeared to be on the verge of greatness had to be rebuilt almost from scratch
Rooney's arrival at Old Trafford in August 2004 came roughly two-thirds of the way through the Sir Alex Ferguson era; as such, United were a well-oiled machine, built and conditioned to bend the domestic game to their will. That would arguably have remained the case with or without Rooney, even though he would become the club’s best player over the next decade.
It should have been a similar story for Charlton, who broke through the ranks halfway through Sir Matt Busby’s 24-year tenure. But tragedy struck in February 1958, and a team that appeared to be on the verge of greatness had to be rebuilt almost from scratch, with Busby in charge and Charlton as his most-trusted lieutenant.
In the wake of the recent Chapecoense tragedy, it should be easier for readers to grasp the enormity of the grieving and rebuilding process United went through in the five years after Munich. And in that context, it should also be possible to rationalise an honours list that, in purely mathematical terms, pitches Rooney as the more successful player. That’s not necessarily the case.
For starters, the League Cup, which accounts for two of Rooney’s haul, warranted little attention for much of Charlton’s United career. Only towards the end of his time at Old Trafford in the late 1960s did it become a competition on a par with the often-maligned but fairly prestigious version we see today. The first Wembley final wasn’t staged until 1967, when Charlton was 29.
So then we're presented with a revised tally of 7-5 in Rooney’s favour, although it's also worth remembering that four of the younger man’s seven trophies – his first three league titles and the Champions League success of 2008 – were collected in the equivalent period when Charlton was simply trying to come to terms with a harrowing disaster.
Verdict: There’s nothing between them. Neither player really has the edge when it comes to team success, given the respective conditions under which they were operating.
Next: And the winner is...