"I cannot think of one aspect of Wayne Rooney's game that has improved between the ages of 21 and 31"

Football writer Paddy Barclay reflects on his career as the Man United captain equals Bobby Charlton's record

Wayne Rooney, Manchester United,

Picture by Martin Rickett PA Archive/PA Images

When Wayne Rooney first burst onto the scene at Everton with that wonderful goal against Arsenal in October 2002, a bright new talent was born.

And the expectation only grew exponentially after four goals for England at Euro 2004 were dovetailed with outstanding performances.

The world was at his feet with the best years still to come in the eyes of observers.

Undoubtedly, he has achieved much in the game to be proud of.

At the weekend, the Manchester United forward equalled Bobby Charlton's goal record for the club by scoring against Reading in the FA Cup.

He has also already become his country's all-time record scorer at international level, breaking Charlton's previous mark of 49 goals which had stood for decades.

Yet, a feeling persists that what is undoubtedly a great career still doesn't live up to the true potential he showed in his teenage years.

Indeed football writer Paddy Barclay feels no part of Rooney's game significantly improved as he told Off The Ball, even as he remained an excellent player.

"I can't see any improvement in his game over the last eight years," he said.

"I cannot think of one aspect of his game that has improved between the ages of 21 and 31. Not one.

"Even things like passing accuracy which should actually get a lot better between 21 and 31, you should be able to spray [the ball], shouldn't you?

Barclay added that Rooney "can't do the Paul Scholes thing" of laser guided passes.

Rooney has become a bit part player at Manchester United this season as Jose Mourinho puts a stamp on his team with the team built around Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front.

At international level though, goal record aside, Barclay believes Gary Lineker's England goals carry more weight than Rooney's when the opposition and stage is taken into account.

"Also the other thing about Rooney is that not since the age of 18, has he succeeded in an international tournament and that's the thing that really asks people the things of a player," Barclay added, contrasting that with how Gareth Bale was able to produce for Wales at Euro 2016.