Why should being a first team regular or a teams focal point aged 16 matter?
Itís not like other players arenít still playing football at that age - in reserves, u21 etc.
You could even argue that itís of benefit to rooney to be playing earlier as there will have been far more focus on him doing things like not playing too much football, having the right amount of recovery time after games, more care from physios, nutritionists etc.
Because players who start playing for the first team at such an early age have a history of declining a lot earlier than players who break through at the age of 20.
By the time he was 18 he was playing for Manchester United in the champions league whilst also playing for England, being the main focal point of both teams.
That's a whole lot different than playing reserve football where the standard was just about league two level back then.