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Thursday 22 March 2018

'I didn't see Wayne as a natural goalscorer' - Fergie admits surprise over Rooney's scoring exploits

Wayne Rooney says Alex Ferguson was vitally important in his career progression
Wayne Rooney says Alex Ferguson was vitally important in his career progression

Alex Ferguson has admitted Wayne Rooney's history-making exploits have taken him by surprise - because he never considered him an "out-and-out goalscorer."

Rooney will beat Sir Bobby Charlton's 45-year-old England scoring record if he nets twice more against San Marino on Saturday night.

But Ferguson - who brought Rooney to Old Trafford as an 18-year-old in 2004 - said he never did so with any goalscoring records in mind.

In an interview with ITV Sport, Ferguson said: "We thought more of him as a footballer - we didn't reckon that he was an absolute out-and-out goalscorer.

"The evidence wasn't there for that - he was an outstanding footballer and that was the reason we wanted him."

But having been won over by Rooney's goalscoring ability Ferguson is reluctant to pick the most prolific between him and former Manchester United star Charlton.

Ferguson added: "It is an incredible record of Bobby Charlton's and it is a big ask (to break it) because the demands on the England team are very hard.

Read more: Alex Ferguson admits hard-line approach cost Man United titles

"A few of them have tried to break it - Jimmy Greaves, Michael Owen, Gary Lineker - and that tells you how difficult it is. But Bobby's record will be beaten - and Bobby will be more pleased than anyone.

"It's difficult to say which is the biggest achievement - Bobby played at a time when England were winning the World Cup, and really Wayne has been the star of the England team for the last 10 years.

"Great players can play in any era so their achievements are identical - it's impossible to compare different eras like that. It's difficult to assess exactly who is better."

Meanwhile Ferguson recalled how Rooney took some convincing to leave his beloved Goodison Park to join United in the first place.

Ferguson said he first spotted Rooney's potential as a 14-year-old during an academy game but the staunch Everton fan was not interested in a move.

Read more: Alex Ferguson told Jonjo Shelvey 'you've got a bit of balls about you' after infamous row

Rooney rejected similar overtures two years later before United finally landed him for a fee of around £28million two years later.

Ferguson added: "(United youth coach) Jim Ryan came back from one of our academy games at the 14 years level and he said 'I've seen a player' and he said the boy is Wayne Rooney.

"We tried to get him because there's a window at the end of the season where we can entice or approach a boy from another club to come and join your academy, but it failed.

"The boy wanted to stay at Everton - at that time he had a love of the club and he's an Everton fan.

"When he got to 16 we tried again. We approached him to join as a 16-year-old, but once again he refused. Then I think everyone saw the highlights when he scored that goal against Arsenal.

"It confirmed exactly what Jim Ryan had said. This boy was going to be a United player."

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