By Simon Stone
WAYNE ROONEY may be the hottest young property in world football but the Manchester United sensation admits all the plaudits mean nothing without medals to go with them.
Amazingly, Rooney has not won a single honour since picking up the Liverpool and District Under-13s Sunday League title with junior club Copplehouse.
Since then, he has tasted the bitter pill of defeat in the Youth Cup final during his Everton days and in last season’s FA Cup final, when his own inspired performance could not steer United clear of a penalty shoot-out defeat to Arsenal.
The 20-year-old still has two realistic chances to start his collection as a professional this season, with Saturday’s mouthwatering FA Cup tie at Liverpool forming the prelude to a February 26 Carling Cup final confrontation with Wigan, when the Red Devils will start huge favourites.
So while victory at the Millennium Stadium would allow Ryan Giggs to collect an unprecedented 15th major honour as a United player, Rooney is anxious to begin a collection he hopes will one day prove as extensive.
"The one thing you play football for is to win trophies," he said.
"If you look at all the great teams, they have won a lot of trophies and when you look the amount of medals players like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville have won, it does inspire you. I want to win at anything I do in life and I want to win medals."
Although he has now been elevated to superstar status, Rooney has not forgotten his roots, which is why he was happy to spend an afternoon with local teenagers in Manchester this week recollecting the street footballing days of his youth.
The Coca-Cola-backed event was a throwback to the days many believe have disappeared in the computer age, although Rooney is proof the days of kids kicking a ball around in less organised surroundings have not gone completely.
The surroundings Rooney operates in now may be more grandiose but he retains the same boyish enthusiasm which will allow him to take occasions such as tomorrow’s trip to Anfield in his stride. Victory over Liverpool would not just provide the England striker with a day to remember, but move him another step closer to erasing the memory of that defeat in last season’s final.
Time may have healed the acute pang of disappointment but the pain has not disappeared completely, which is why Rooney is so desperate to lift at least one trophy this term.
"We deserved to win the FA Cup last season and we would have done if we had taken our chances," he said.
A Carling Cup triumph may go some way to easing the deflation at knowing the Champions League knockout phase will click into gear without United’s presence for the first time in a decade.
The Red Devils’ unscheduled early exit - after a loss against Benfica - coupled with Chelsea’s runaway Premiership lead, have been used as evidence of United’s demise. Rooney is happy to refute those claims, but admits the loss in Lisbon was a setback that will take some getting over.
"I am devastated not to be involved in the Champions League," he said. "It is a huge tournament and with the team we have and the size of the club we should be in the later stages. But we let ourselves down because our performances were not good enough."