Wayne Rooney England's finest, claims Herrera
Published 18/10/2015 | 13:31
Ander Herrera has declared Wayne Rooney England's greatest ever player.
Rooney ended his final week as a twenty-something with a fine finish in Manchester United's easy 3-0 win at Everton on Saturday.
Rooney's 30th birthday next Saturday will provide pundits and commentators with a chance to assess the United and England captain's career.
One point of view is that Rooney is past his best, that the striker has failed to live up to expectations since those early years when he blew Barclays Premier League defences away for fun.
The way in which he broke through the Everton defence and converted a slide-rule pass from Herrera suggests he still has plenty to offer.
And Spanish midfielder Herrera has no doubt he is playing alongside one of the all-time greats.
"Wayne is our leader. He is the best English player in English history and we are lucky to have him," the United midfielder said.
"When he fights like he did today we can be very proud of him. He has always helped me a lot."
Sir Alex Ferguson was loathe to field Rooney at Goodison Park due to the abuse he used to receive at the home of his boyhood club.
The former United manager said he believed Rooney would always be regarded as a "traitor" for leaving Goodison for Old Trafford in 2004, but relations between the 29-year-old and the Everton supporters have thawed recently.
Rooney received a warm reception when he turned out in Everton blue for Duncan Ferguson's testimonial in August.
And on Saturday Rooney tempered his celebration after clipping the ball over Tim Howard to end a run of three straight defeats for United at Goodison.
"Maybe (it was) because it was the third goal and it would have been very different if it was a last-minute winner after we were winning," Everton boss Roberto Martinez said.
"From my time here there's always been a mutual respect. He's been a phenomenal footballer, he started at Everton and that deep down is always there.
"I think the Duncan Ferguson testimonial opened a real good option to show emotions and Wayne has always been clear in his affection towards the football club.
"Every Evertonian will tell you that we are always extremely proud of him developing at our football club."
When quizzed on whether he thought Rooney could play for Everton again, Martinez said with a smile: "That's a question you shouldn't ask. He is a Manchester United player and captain."
Louis van Gaal surprised a few people when he handed Rooney the United captaincy ahead of Robin van Persie, who captained Holland under the United manager at the World Cup.
But the 64-year-old clearly thinks he made the right choice.
"I think Wayne is an example for everybody, not only for his fellow players, but also for other players from other clubs and also for the manager because he is a very social human being and he has a professional attitude," the United manager said.
"I could not imagine that when I was the coach of the Dutch national before I came to United. I had heard other things, but he has shown a fantastic attitude and I am very happy that he scored."
Morgan Schneiderlin and Herrera gave United a two-goal cushion thanks to some non-existent marking before Rooney completed the win on what was a sad day for Everton fans following the announcement of Howard Kendall's death just before kick-off.
When Everton threatened, David de Gea repelled Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku with fine saves.
"I do expect that from him. Everybody was writing that we had a bad relationship but we have a very good relationship," said Van Gaal of his goalkeeper, whose move to Real Madrid fell through on deadline day.
Next up after Wednesday's trip to CSKA Moscow is a crucial derby against leaders Manchester City.
''We have to be more consistent, so next week when we win against Manchester City then we can say, 'OK, now we think maybe about title aspirations','' Van Gaal said.