Sport’s greatest goodbyes: Where will Wayne Rooney’s send-off rank?

Wayne Rooney will receive a special send-off on Thursday when he makes his final appearance for England – but what’s been the greatest goodbye in sport?

Former England captain Rooney has been drafted into Gareth Southgate’s squad for the Sky Live friendly with the USA, with the FA keen to pay tribute to the national team’s record goalscorer.

It will be a memorable moment for Rooney but, as our list below shows, some sports stars have truly signed off in style…

England vs USA

November 15, 2018, 7:00pm

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Sir Alex Ferguson

Rooney had his run-ins with his former manager Sir Alex Ferguson but he would no doubt settle for ending his career in the same style as the iconic Manchester United manager. The final season of Ferguson’s reign ended with him winning his 13th Premier League title.

The trophy was wrapped up before the final game but it was an entertaining exit as United drew 5-5 with West Bromwich Albion. Not only have his old team not won the Premier League since – they have not even scored five goals in a Premier League game since.

Alastair Cook

England’s record run scorer and century maker ended his international career in fitting style this summer. After form issues had led Alastair Cook to announce his imminent retirement, the opener scored 147 against India at a packed Oval in his final innings for his country.

Cook’s 33rd career ton, coupled with his first innings 71, helped England to a 4-1 series win over the world’s No 1 ranked Test nation, with the Essex batsman becoming the fifth-highest run scorer in Test history in the process.

Former captain Cook, who also scored a century against India on his debut, was given a standing ovation as he walked off for the final time in his 161st Test. “It was very emotional,” he told Sky Sports. “You couldn’t have scripted it. It’s one of those days where you will look back and forever go ‘Wow’.”

Peyton Manning

A Super Bowl triumph was a suitable send-off for NFL icon Peyton Manning. The legendary quarterback announced his retirement shortly after helping Denver Broncos to the crown in 2016, the 200th victory of his career.

It may not have been a perfect performance from Manning, throwing 13-of-23 for 141 yards with one interception, but with the final pass of his career he found wide receiver Bennie Fowler for a two-point conversion as the Broncos ran out 24-10 winners.

The triumph made Manning the oldest starting quarterback to both play in and win a Super Bowl and the first to lead two franchises to the title, after steering the Indianapolis Colts to glory in 2006.

Pete Sampras

Tennis legend Pete Sampras enjoyed one final hurrah when he defeated Andre Agassi in the final of the 2002 US Open, the same man whom he had met in his very first Grand Slam final 12 years earlier.

Sampras had not won the tournament in six years but, after a four-set battle between the veterans, he claimed a then-record 14th Grand Slam to match Jimmy Connors’ record of five US Open wins.

Sampras dominated tennis in the 1990s, winning 64 top-level singles titles – including seven Wimbledon wins in eight years – but after that final US Open success he did not feature in any events over the next 12 months – officially announcing his retirement prior to the next US Open.

Jack Nicklaus

Golf is a sport that knows how to treat its former champions, allowing them to compete in majors long after their prime. Gary Player competed in his final Masters – his 52nd – in 2009, while Tom Watson was given a warm send-off in near darkness in his final competitive Open in 2015.

But the most successful golfer of them all, Jack Nicklaus, received perhaps the most touching reception when he brought his glorious career to an end at the home of golf, St Andrews, in 2005.

The Golden Bear won 18 majors in total, the last of them coming in 1986, but his final hole was not to be a damp squib – after crossing the Swilcan Bridge, Nicklaus bowed out with a birdie. “I’m very sentimental and the place gets to me every time I go there,” he explained. “St Andrews was always where I wanted to finish my major career.”

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