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Rooney could officially break Charlton's record but still have fewer goals


Sir Bobby Charlton's final Manchester United match was not at Chelsea but days later in Italy

Sir Bobby Charlton's final Manchester United match was not at Chelsea but days later in Italy

Sir Bobby Charlton's final Manchester United match was not at Chelsea but days later in Italy

Wayne Rooney has the chance to officially break Sir Bobby Charlton's Manchester United all-time scoring record on Sunday - but some may argue he is still two goals short.

The 31-year-old moved level with the World Cup winner on 249 goals by scoring the opener in last weekend's FA Cup third-round win against Reading.

Sunday could see Rooney move clear in the official record books, but there is a match that causes some consternation given Charlton netted a brace on his final appearance for the club.

The outgoing great netted twice at Hellas Verona in the Anglo-Italian Cup, but United historians do not count the match towards his official haul of 249 goals in 758 appearances.

Whether it is deemed competitive or not, the match in Italy was a memorable occasion for Charlton - and a young player called Pat Olney.

A two-footed outside forward, on that day in May 1973 the 17-year-old youth player came off the bench for his debut for the United first-team.

What is more, he scored the goal that kicked off a 4-1 victory in Veneto.

"I came on for Willie Morgan," Olney told Press Association, 43 years on from that memorable moment.

"I was there for two years, played in the reserves, the A team, the youth side. I was capped for Wales, the Under-19s.

"It was my only first-team appearance - and not a bad game to play in and score in.

"To me, it still feels like it was last week - and I wish it was last week again."

United boss Tommy Docherty had told Olney he would play a part in Italy days earlier in the league finale at Chelsea.

That is considered Charlton's final competitive match, but he was just enthused by donning the United shirt against Verona.

"Bobby jumped for joy," Olney said after coming off the bench at half-time and opening the scoring in the 53rd minute.

"He played the ball through to me, then it was between me and the goalkeeper. Thank God I got the better of that one.

"I scored the first goal coming on, then Pete Fletcher scored and Bobby got two.

"It was Bobby's last game. A lot of people think it was the game at Chelsea, but that was just his last league game."

It was an unforgettable day for Olney and Charlton as it was both the debutant and then record appearance holder's final match for United.

The pair would link up again when Charlton became player-manager at Preston for a spell, with the outside forward going onto have spells at Bangor City and Scarborough.

A move to West Ham was close at one stage but Olney does not look back at his career with regret.

Olney cherishes his time at Old Trafford and gets to the ex-players dinners when he can - a long trip from the Isle of Wight home he shares with partner Lynda.

But there is no doubt that his loyalties remain to United and he hopes Jose Mourinho can finally restore the club to the top of the game.

As for modern day hero Rooney, how does he compare to Charlton?

"It is difficult to compare them - and my favourite was George anyway," Olney said, referring to his idol George Best.

"You know, it has annoyed me over the years. We all know that he had a drink problem but behind the scenes he was just marvellous.

"The amount of money he gave to charity and things - I know a lot of players do that now as well - but when we'd finished training about 12, half past, he would stop with all the young kids.

"I have got in a few scrapes about him over the years."

You might have another scrap on your hands if you tell Olney the Verona match was not a competitive game.

"When I got a letter through the post asking me to go up to Old Trafford, there was no question," the Welshman said. "I was going there and that was it.

"It was one of the highlights of my career. There's no doubt about that, really.

"When you're training with people like George Best, Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Paddy Crerand.

"It was a dream come true to play with Bobby and Manchester United."

PA Media