"He was an absolute freak of nature" - Lee Carsley shares his first impressions of a young Wayne Rooney

The former Everton midfielder was speaking on tonight's Off The Ball

Wayne Rooney, Lee Carsley

Image: Martin Rickett PA Archive/PA Images

Everton welcomed Arsenal to Goodison Park this evening, having been unable to beat them in the Premier League since 2014.

Over recent years, the Gunners have enjoyed games against the blue half of Merseyside but one of the most memorable games since the turn of the millennium was Everton's late victory over Arsene Wenger's side in October 2002.

The game will of course will be best remembered for Wayne Rooney's 90th minute winner. The strike went some way to announcing the young English striker on the big stage.

Speaking on tonight's Off The Ball, former Everton teammate and ex-Ireland international Lee Carsley shared his first impressions of the young striker. 

"At [Manchester] City [where he was an U18 coach] we have a lot of talented players, but nothing compares to Wayne Rooney at 15," he said. "I don't think we'll see anything as predominant as Wayne Rooney ever again to be honest. He was an absolute freak of nature.

"He was rapid, he could shoot with either foot and he had this fantastic power. He had something you can't coach and that was the mentality to cope with everything that was thrown at him. That's down to his upbringing and the support network he had around him.

"In the school holidays when Rooney was young, he'd come and train with the first team. We'd do 11 v 11 and at 15 he was holding his own. He was an early developer which meant he was able to cope with that. Technically and mentality-wise, nothing phased him. 

"He wasn't a big-time Charlie, he was just a normal lad from Liverpool. He had a bit of cheek about him and he had a bit of confidence, but was always very respectful. Everything that he got quite early he took in his stride."

He went on to explain that even when he had just joined the club, people in the senior ranks were aware of Rooney impressing at youth level.

"A few weeks after I got to the club I think the youth team were in the FA Youth Cup at the time. We had all heard about this young lad scoring three or four goals for the youth team every week.

"It wasn't long before, at 15 years of age, that Wayne was coming to train with us. Straight away there was a lot of fuss surrounding him. I realised that he could play for Ireland, so straightaway myself and Kev [Kilbane] started to get into him about playing for Ireland."

He added: "He knew that he was strong and he'd always go up against players who could physically compete with him."