“That was the best one, for my money.”
Manchester United scored 2,769 goals during Alex Ferguson’s 26-year reign at Old Trafford.
In another way of looking at it, they averaged 1.85 goals per game under the Scot. Some of those strikes were among the most iconic in modern football.
Goals that immediately spring to mind include David Beckham’s audacious goal against Wimbledon from the halfway line in 1996, Eric Cantona’s glorious chip against Sunderland in the same year and, of course, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s last-minute winner that crushed Bayern Munich and clinched the Treble.
Ferguson always seemed to crack a smile and allow himself to pump the air with his fists a couple of times when United scored. Every goal mattered to him.
But which did he consider the greatest during his legendary stint at the Theatre of Dreams?
The answer may not surprise a lot of people. Yes, it was Wayne Rooney’s stunning overhead kick against Manchester City in 2011.
And while that wasn’t exactly a left-field choice from Fergie, his recollection of Rooney’s spectacular effort bears repeating.
‘The execution was incredible’ – Ferguson on Rooney’s goal
“Over the years I witnessed some immortal Manchester United goals,” Ferguson wrote in his 2013 autobiography.
“Cantona treated the crowd to two or three wonderful chipped finishes. Rooney’s bicycle kick against City took some beating.
“The execution was incredible. It’s not as if that unforgettable overhead finish was delivered from the six-yard line. He was 14 yards from goal. It also took a deflection as he was running in.
“Nani’s cross veered off a City player, so Wayne was forced to make an amazing mid-air adjustment. That was the best one, for my money.”
Ferguson did, however, shower praise on Robin van Persie for the Dutchman’s piledriving volley against Aston Villa in April 2013, the second goal in a hat-trick during a 3-0 win that sealed Fergie’s 13th and final league title at United.
“But Van Persie’s against Aston Villa in the 3-0 win that secured us the title on 22 April was special too,” added Ferguson.
“An over-the-shoulder volley from a long drilled ball by Rooney. A normal player would try that trick a hundred times in training and score once.
“Van Persie could do it regularly. Shoulder down, head down, eyes down, through the ball.”
During an interview with Sky Sports in 2017, Rooney said he considered that overhead kick as the most important goal he scored at United (he scored a club-record 253 of them, too).
“The deflection [from Nani’s cross] actually helped me, because it slowed the ball down and gave me time to adjust myself, turn my body,” said the striker.
“To be honest, I just thought I’ll go for it. I wasn’t having the best game, and thankfully it’s gone into the top corner.
“I think so [on whether it was his most important strike]. We went on to win the league that year and it was a big game for us.”