Olympiakos v Manchester United: 'One Champions League crown is not enough for me', says Wayne Rooney

I grew up wanting to win trophies. That’s what you’ll be judged on when you finish your career

Athens

The rules of engagement were that last night’s press conference must be about Manchester United’s imminent European fixture, rather than their most highly paid player, but Wayne Rooney did not seem to mind the rules being broken.

In 15 minutes of conversation, give or take, he ranged from an analysis of Bayern Munich at Arsenal (“perfect”), and Barcelona at Manchester City (“incredible”) to the question of how he would want to be remembered.

The impression that you took away was of a player yearning to cut it with the elite again, as he did on that wet spring night in Moscow six years ago. He laughed a little self-consciously when he was asked whether his record of one winner’s and two runner-up medals was enough for him – a leading question, for sure – but there was sentiment in his reply. “To win one is never enough,” he said. “The feeling you get as a player when you win those finals is incredible, so there’s no way you’d want to stop at one.”

You also envisaged him sitting in front of the TV set at home in Prestbury, mentally calculating what his part would have been in the two Champions League games he watched last week, especially Bayern’s win at Arsenal. “The way they keep the ball and open teams up is great to watch,” he said. “We have to go and try to do that – try and keep the ball, be patient and break teams down. A lot of teams we are playing are sitting back with all the team [behind the ball].”

 

The notion of United matching what Bayern accomplished at the Emirates seems remote, given that a goalless draw there a few days before the Germans’ arrival was an achievement in this desperate season. Yet Rooney knows that there is another way to progress in Europe.

How could he not, being from a city so drenched in the memory of what Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool did in Istanbul in 2005? The achievements of Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea in the face of Barcelona seven years later are vivid too.

The European seedings, weighted as they are in favour of the Champions League’s established heavyweights, served United a group they could win, a subsequent round-of-16 game they should win – and allowed them something of a novelty: a potential chance to inhale the fresh air of territory out of City and Arsenal’s reach – if, as seems likely, those clubs are eliminated at this stage.

This careworn, graffiti-strewn city is looking for heroes of its own, too. The bronze statue of a juggling player outside the stadium entrance is of no one in particular, but the interior of the place boasts new facilities and is decorated with a montage of half a century of European nights, including the Champions League quarter-final Olympiakos reached in 1999.

“The time has come for us,” said the midfielder Giannis Maniatis and, though the words of their manager, Michel, were being translated from Spanish, into Greek, then into English, they did seem to be invested with bite. His side are missing only Javier Saviola, out with a thigh injury. The segment of the stadium where an SS banner was displayed during the Anderlecht game in December has been closed as a Uefa sanction against racism, though only the stadium capacity will be only 2,000 lighter. There will still be a wall of noise.

The odds are stacked against United making this season the one which will be remembered for European glory amid domestic distress. Rooney talked meaningfully about things picking up. But we have been here too many times this season, expecting the trigger point from which United do not look back. For as long as there is light there is hope when the knockout games come around, though.

A place at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz for the European Cup final in May creates the potential to send the side into the summer with momentum, carrying the status of a club who can still attract the Continent’s best, and are not ready to vanish into obscurity.

For Rooney, 29 this autumn and notionally committed to this club for the rest of his career after signing his new contract, the need to retain that link to the past, while a United future is built, seems even greater.

“As a winner,” is how he wanted to be remembered, he said. “I think every player wants to win and I’m no different. I grew up all my life wanting to win trophies. That’s my main aim. At Man United that’s what we aim to do is win trophies. That’s what you’ll be judged on when you’ve finished your career – not just me but the whole team.”

Read more:
United can ‘do a Chelsea’ in Europe says Rooney
United have to make good on their Rooney rights
Olympiakos v Manchester United match preview
Suggested Topics
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice