Rooney may be a record breaker but he remains in the shadow of Owen

Michael Owen

Forget about about his commentary work and the latter years of his career – Michael Owen's England achievements far outweigh Rooney's.

This weekend Wayne Rooney will most likely trot out to a hero's welcome at Old Trafford happy in the knowledge that he is now England's all-time goalscorer, a feat even some Liverpool fans may acknowledge.

Yet a few hours earlier and and some 35 miles down the road another English legend will walk out to a slightly less enthusiastic reception.

Since taking up a role as co-commentator with BT Sport, Michael Owen has garnered plenty in the way of criticism on social media.

But as an England fan growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the various pithy comments levelled at the ex-striker hurt a little.

Because, while Rooney might be England's all-time scorer, it's Owen who is responsible for many of England's best memories in the post-Italia '90 era and is worthy of more recognition.

Quality over Quantity

In 89 games for England, Owen scored 40 goals but could have scored more had things gone differently.

Having recovered from a long-term injury to score for England against Estonia and Russia in the doomed Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, the appointment of Fabio Capello saw Owen effectively frozen out.

"I've given up trying to understand," Owen told The Guardian of Capello's decision to exclude him.

"I've not given up on England. It's come to an abrupt stop under this manager. You'd have a better idea than me [why that is]."

Effectively out of the picture at the age of 28, had Owen continued under a coach who fully backed him then it's conceivable that he would have surpassed Bobby Charlton's record ahead of Rooney.

As it was, Owen was left to lament on what was and what could have been.

"I am not going to kid myself. Every time I saw him [Charlton] I was 'closing on your record, Sir Bobby.' Now I just see him for who he is, a great man.”

Rooney, by comparison, managed 38 goals in his first 89 appearances for England, benefiting from Roy Hodgson's continued loyalty.

But it's debatable, had Capello remained in charge, as to whether Rooney would have kept his place with the Italian famously complaining to The Telegraph: "Rooney only plays well in Manchester."

In another time and place, their trajectories could have so easily be reversed.

Delivering the goods

But Owen's superiority goes beyond goal record comparisons and conjecture – he simply delivered more on the big stage.

Rooney's may have scored four at Euro 2004, but he has added just one more goal at a European Championships and one more at a World Cup since.

Injuries have played a part but discipline has also proven an issue.

From the red card against Portugal in Germany to the rash challenge during a Euro 2012 qualifier with Montenegro that saw him miss England's opener, he's rarely kept cool under pressure.

Peppered along the way there have been lacklustre displays in qualifying for Euro 2008, at the World Cup in 2010 and at the Euros two years later.

A striker for the big stage

The same criticisms simply cannot be levelled at Owen.

Never dogged by discipline issues, Owen is also the only player to score in four consecutive international tournaments for England, highlighting his status as a striker for the big occasion.

For all of Rooney's endeavours at Euro 2004, for instance, it's Owen's tournament debut at France '98 that will surely live longer in the memory, helped by THAT goal against Argentina.

And let's not forget that it was Owen, not Rooney, who gave England the lead in the quarter finals again the hosts Portugal - once again showcasing his big game player status.

That was Owen all over – when the Three Lions really needed him he was there - something that could not always be said of Rooney.

From winning the penalty against Argentina at the World Cup in 2002 to taking a rare chance presented to him against Brazil in the quarter-finals, Owen made vital, tournament-defining contributions and that's before we even mention that hat-trick against Germany back in 2001.

Now think about Rooney's goals and ask yourself two things – How many were scored against the world's biggest and best international sides and how many came from open play?

Post-match Regrets

Owen suffered the same injury woes as Rooney at the 2006 World Cup, but the only difference was that he never really recovered from them.

He even expressed some regret at the decision to play at the World Cup too, telling The Telegraph:

"After being in plaster for so long my leg was de-conditioned and with hindsight, I should never have gone to Germany with England."

Had he sat that one out, then things may have been very different for a player who had been on course for bigger things.


There is still time for the Rooney to deliver on the biggest stage for the national team and should he shine in France next summer then the debate ends there.

But fail to do so and, goal record or not, he will surely sit as second to Owen in terms of England's best strikers in the post-Gary Lineker age.

Michael Owen was a fine England striker and we should celebrate him for that, rather than his commentary skills.

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for LIVERPOOL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch