The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Off the bench for a ‘special’ goal

London: Everton striker Wayne Rooney justified his billing as the best young talent in English football when he came off the bench to end Arsenal’s record unbeaten Premier League run at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Rooney, who turns 17 next week, curled a superb shot beyond England goalkeeper David Seaman to score his first senior goal and become the youngest-ever scorer in the Premier League in the 2-1 victory.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger described Rooney as the best young English talent he has seen after his team’s unbeaten run of 30 Premier League matches came to an end. It stretched back 10 months.

“It was a special goal from a special talent,” the Frenchman said. “I hope he stays injury free and can mentally handle what is happening to him now.”

Rooney has already been described in some quarters as a cross between Liverpool’s Michael Owen and former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne, but Everton manager David Moyes is keen to keep a lid on the excitement his emergence has generated.

“It was a wonderful goal and he is a great talent,” Moyes told Sky Sports.

“I went to watch our academy (under-17) side this morning and Wayne was there watching, really that’s the age group he should be playing in.”

Moyes has used Rooney mainly as a substitute this season as he tries to protect the teenager from the pressures of the Premier League.

But his first senior goal will increase the calls for a starting place for Rooney. Bookmakers William Hill are offering odds of 7-2 on him becoming the youngest-ever England international (a record currently held by Owen who made his debut aged 18 years 59 days).

Moyes said: “He is only 16 and we want him to mature as a football player and as a person. Alex (Ferguson) did very well protecting Ryan Giggs (when he burst on to the scene). We will try and do the same with Wayne.

“Everybody is very excited, I just hope the fans and the media give him a bit of breathing space.”

Everton fans have endured a decade of under-achievement from their side, a situation highlighted by the likes of Owen, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher rolling off the production line of city rivals Liverpool — all of whom were boyhood Everton fans.

Rooney’s signing of professional forms with the club on Thursday, something which Moyes says is “done and dusted”, will be a tremendous relief for the club as they try and return to the heady days of 1987 when they last won the title.

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