He was only 17 and 317 days when he scored the first of his 50 goals in 2003, becoming the youngest player to do so.
As the joint second-youngest England player in history, he already had five caps to his name by that time, awarded by an admiring Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Rooney was only 18 when he made his name internationally at Euro 2004, notching four goals in two games against Switzerland and Croatia and being named in the team of the tournament.
It ended with a broken bone in his foot as England lost to Portugal in the quarter-finals and some critics have questioned whether Rooney has ever achieved such heights for the national team again.
He had less success in the World Cup, failing to score in either qualifying or the 2006 finals, when England again lost to Portugal on penalties after Rooney was sent off.
His first World Cup goal did not come until September 2008 and, although he was prolific in qualifying, he again went through the 2010 finals in South Africa without scoring.
Finding the net at last against Uruguay in 2014 remains his only goal in 11 appearances at three World Cups.
His other goals have often come in bursts with an occasional long gap in between, like 11 games without one from 2009-10.
From the start of last season, however, he shot up the list of England’s all-time scorers with eight in 10 games, joining Gary Lineker in joint second before finally overhauling Charlton.
In becoming the first England player to reach 50 goals, which he did with a penalty against Switzerland in a Euro 2016 qualifier on Tuesday, Rooney could not escape the criticism that several of those were against minor opposition.
San Marino, Andorra, Liechtenstein and Kazakhstan are included in his list of victims and Charlton’s contemporaries Geoff Hurst and Jimmy Greaves are among those who think their old team mate’s achievements were greater.
Hurst, the only man to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final, has pointed out that Charlton was a midfield player, making his record of almost one goal every other game “enormous”.
Hurst rates Greaves, with 44 goals in 57 games for England, as the best pure goalscorer. Greaves himself has also said that “the quality of opposition England are up against today is nothing like it used to be”.
None of which will bother England captain Rooney, who has played 107 times for his country, as he sets his sights on the next record — Peter Shilton’s 125 caps.
(Reporting by Steve Tongue; Editing by Ken Ferris)