In terms of trophies, 2007-08 stands as Wayne Rooney's most successful domestic campaign: he picked up his second league title, his first (and likely only) Champions League winner's medal, and was a dodgy semi-final and a theoretical final away from a treble.
In terms of contribution, however, he was very much overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo. But then, so was pretty much everybody else. For this was the year when Ronaldo, after a slow and suspension-hit start to the season, went sublime. The Portuguese scored his first goal of the season in September; he scored his 42nd in the Champions League final.
What of Rooney, then? In terms of goals, both he and Carlos Tevez played second fiddle to Ronaldo. But the interplay and understanding between the three of them meant that Alex Ferguson was free to indulge his tinkerman tendencies to their fullest. At time Rooney played wide on the left of a five; at other times a roaming role in a three; and he started the Champions League final up front in a lopsided 4-4-2. Though he didn't finish it: visibly knackered, he was taken off in extra time for Nani, who thankfully for all concerned scored his penalty.
With Ronaldo drifting around looking for space, and with Tevez and Rooney scurrying around like Tasmanian devils, United were both fascinating for the nerds and fun, even occasionally exhilarating, for everybody else. Rooney in particular developed a happy knack for breaking down the left and setting up his colleagues, a contribution that would soon — like everything else about the poor lad — get swallowed up in the arguments over his best position.
There were, however, a couple of injuries to interrupt things. He broke a bone in his foot on the opening day of the season, did his ankle partway through, then later in the season missed the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona with a hip injury. Whether having Rooney available for the latter game would have encouraged Ferguson to take a more aggressive approach is debatable; without him, they went full fire blanket, and smothered Barcelona out of the competition.
Though he missed that game, and didn’t score in the final, his goals had been crucial in the early stages of the competition. In the group games he scored the only goal of the game against Roma and the winner against Sporting CP, ensuring United came top and in the process avoided Real Madrid. His only goal in the knockout stages came against Roma, who must have been sick of the sight of him; after 66 minutes in the Stadio Olimpico, he smuggled home an opportunistic finish to turn a slender 1-0 lead into two away goals.
As for the league campaign, Rooney’s most important goal came in April at the Riverside, a 74th minute equaliser that put another point between United and Chelsea, and saved the side from embarrassment at the hands of Middlesbrough and Afonso “Completely Bobbins In Every Other Game He Played In England” Alves. But his best came in a 5-1 rout of Newcastle, an dipping, curling, unusually delicate side-footer from the edge of the box.
Perhaps his best game of the season came in the FA Cup. No successful Rooney season would be complete without the ritual embarrassment of Arsenal, and this time around it came at Old Trafford in the fifth round. After 16 minutes, Rooney and United were one goal up; by the time Emmanuel Eboue was sent off, in the 48th minute, United were 3-0 ahead and Rooney could have had a hat-trick. He was substituted in the 70th minute to a standing ovation, and even Fabio Capello looked pleased.
2007-08: 43 games, 18 goals, second Premier League title, Champions League title.