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Rooney vs Charlton: Whose Manchester United scoring record is better?

Bobby Charlton, Wayne Rooney
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5. Conclusion

The competitive terrain half a century ago was totally different, back in the days before anybody cottoned on to the idea that football had such business potential

Comparing two players from entirely different eras is fraught with complexities that go way beyond an Excel spreadsheet and the comparative data of 986 matches.

This isn’t just about heavy balls and muddy pitches. The competitive terrain half a century ago was totally different, back in the days before anybody cottoned on to the idea that football had such business potential, especially when you distribute television revenue in such a way that enables the biggest clubs to capitalise and sustain their success.

Bobby Charlton

Football was a very different sport back in Charlton's day

Nonetheless, we can at least put a number on competitive balance using an algorithm, favoured by sports economics professor in the United States, that measures the points distribution of final league tables. According to such a tool, we can speculate that the old First Division was 47 per cent more competitive from top to bottom over the course of Charlton’s career than the Premier League has been since Rooney moved to United.

ROONEY VS CHARLTON FOR ENGLAND

In purely individual goalscoring terms, Rooney has the better record. He scores one goal every 2.17 games compared to Charlton’s overall return of one goal every 3.04 games. And when you convert those respective figures into an approximation of actual minutes played, the younger man’s supremacy becomes a landslide – a goal every 174 minutes compared to Charlton’s rate of one every 246.

But then you divide one figure by the other and discover that Rooney’s goalscoring ratio is only 41 per cent better in a period where the football might be considered 47 per cent less competitive. Suddenly the waters are muddy again.

Perhaps the best way to sort this one out is over a pint.

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