Gary Speed
Gary Speed REUTERS

Manchester United star Wayne Rooney has paid to tribute to the late Wales manager Gary Speed who died last month, claiming he used to idolise the former Everton, Leeds United, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers midfielder.

The aforementioned Manchester United star admits he named his pet rabbit after his Everton hero when he was just 11-years-old, intimating the former footballer, who was found hanged at his home in Cheshire, was one of his Goodison Park heroes growing.

Speed's death on November 27 rocked the footballing world and united the country in mourning for a player widely deemed one of the most professional and respected in the entire game, and Manchester United's Rooney admits the news came as a massive shock to the boyhood Everton supporter.

"It was such a big shock for everyone when we heard the news of his death," The Manchester United star told The Sun.

"I don't think anyone saw it coming. It's a sad loss. I just thought he was a great player. I met him a few times."

The Manchester United hero added: "I used to love the way he played, box to box - late runs into the box. He scored some great goals for us.

"I remember when he was at Everton. I got a rabbit when I was younger, so I named it after him. I named the rabbit Speedo."

Speed was just 42-years-old when he died but he will always be fondly remembered a true professional on and off the pitch. He enjoyed a stellar playing career for Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United before embarking on a fledgling managerial career with the Blades and Wales.