LONDON • Wayne Rooney became Manchester United's record scorer when he netted his 250th goal for the English giants in a 1-1 draw at Stoke on Saturday, saying the landmark meant "a hell of a lot".
Rooney equalised in the fourth minute of stoppage time to break fellow England great Bobby Charlton's United record of 249 goals.
Even Pele, the Brazilian legend widely recognised as one of the greatest players in the game, tweeted his congratulations: "Congratulations @waynerooney for being a tremendous talent and a great representative of your club and country."
The 31-year-old forward, making his 546th United appearance, surpassed 1966 World Cup winner Charlton's record in style when he bent a free kick past Stoke goalkeeper Lee Grant into the top corner of the net at the Britannia Stadium.
His latest United goal came a fortnight after Rooney, who succeeded Charlton as England's record scorer in 2015, equalled the former attacking midfielder's United mark during an FA Cup tie against second-tier Reading.
"It means a hell of a lot," Rooney, who joined United from Everton in 2004, said afterwards.
ECLIPSING A LEGEND
When you sign for the club, you realise how important he (Charlton) is. To surpass him in goals is something I never thought I'd do. I have the utmost respect for him.
WAYNE ROONEY, Manchester United captain, on claiming the club's scoring record as his own.
"It is a great honour and I am very proud," added the Liverpool-born United captain, who made his name as an out-and-out striker but has been deployed lately as an attacking midfielder.
"The players who have played for this club have been world-class. I am proud to play for this club. To be all-time goal-scorer is a huge honour."
Rooney said he was delighted Charlton was present to congratulate him personally. "When you sign for the club, you realise how important he (Charlton) is," the Englishman explained.
"To surpass him in goals is something I never thought I'd do. I have the utmost respect for him.
"He came and congratulated me in the dressing room so I know he's pleased in some way."
Charlton, while disappointed to lose a record that had stood for more than four decades, said he was "delighted" that it was Rooney who had deprived him of the landmark.
"It's over 40 years since I scored the last of my 249 goals for Manchester United, so I must admit that I have become used to the honour of being the club's all-time top goal-scorer," Charlton told United's website. "I would be lying to say that I'm not disappointed to have lost the record.
"However, I can honestly say that I'm delighted for Wayne. He deserves his place in the history books."
Added United manager Jose Mourinho: "He is a true great for club and country, and it is fitting that he is now the highest goal-scorer for both United and England.
"The record is the record. It is the record of the biggest club in England and one of the biggest in the world.
"Before him, the record belonged to a legend of English football. Now Wayne becomes a legend of Manchester United."
Alex Ferguson, the United manager who had signed Rooney from Everton, said: "Wayne thoroughly deserves his place in the history books of this great club and I am sure that he will go on to score many more goals."
It was a view endorsed by Charlton, who said Rooney was young enough to build a goal tally that would last as long as his own United record.
"I was 35 when I retired," said Charlton. "Wayne is only 31 and still going strong... Now he's the man to beat, and I can't see anybody doing that for a long, long time."
Mourinho, meanwhile, lavished praise on Rooney but also expressed the hope that finally reaching the milestone will clear the air around United.
He suggested that the loud and protracted yearning for Rooney to break the record had been becoming an irritating sideshow.
"It's been going on too long," said Mourinho. "I think it's an amazing achievement, something not to forget, and I think you should speak about Wayne's record today and tomorrow for 24 hours a day and then let him be a normal guy.
"Obviously he is a legend in the history of our club and English football, but the record is in his pocket and now we just want to let him be a normal player and try to score more goals."
Yesterday, Rooney was presented with a lifetime achievement award by the Football Writers' Association in a ceremony that had been arranged before the goal at Stoke.
Mourinho said that made the timing of his goal all the better.
"It comes at exactly the most beautiful moment you could choose."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN