On Saturday afternoon, Wayne Rooney made his second Everton league debut and unsurprisingly the 31-year-old scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Stoke City at Goodison Park.
In truth, it was an unconvincing performance from the home side. The one shining light was the performance of the prodigy son on his return from Manchester United.
The forward proved even in his first Premier League appearance in his second spell at the club showed that he still has a lot to offer.
Much needed football intelligence
I do believe that Wayne Rooney will be the first to admit that he does not have the same explosive acceleration or pace he had during his younger years. However, for all the criticism of Rooney in recent seasons, his football intelligence is one of his biggest assets.
Everton boss Ronald Koeman has talked about Rooney’s ‘football intelligence’ and ‘winning mentality’. That football intelligence has been honed over a decade and a half at the top level of football.
His legs may be warier than in his teens or his mid-twenties, but Rooney has not lost his natural football knowledge. When the Toffees needed to close the game out Rooney dropped deeper into a midfield position. He used his experience to help his team grind out the win.
Everton have many talented young players, who can learn a lot from the forward. Rooney is not a like-for-like replacement for Romelu Lukaku up front. Nobody expected him to be. Instead, he is an experienced head that his teammates can look to for inspiration and advice.
For the youngsters like Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Tom Davies, Ademola Lookman and even Sandro Ramirez, Rooney is a player who can teach them all the tricks of the trade.
Rooney looks far happy at Everton
Wayne Rooney is a club legend at Manchester United. He is the Red Devils record goalscorer, but his final few years in Manchester were ones of frustration. The England international struggled for first team football and form at Old Trafford in those final seasons of a 13-year stay at the club.
At Everton, Rooney looks to have a smile back on his face and he even looks slightly leaner. The forward has never lost affection for his boyhood team. Even when as a teenager when he kissed the Manchester United badge at Goodison Park it was out of anger that the people he was once among had disowned him.
The striker showed his true feelings for the club in his celebrating his winning goal against the Potters. There will be very few goal celebrations this season in the Premier League that will illustrate such emotion.
Rooney has come back to Merseyside with a point to prove. Many have written him off as a footballer. However, he chose to go back to Everton rather than taking the easy option of moving to the USA or China.
It was a brave move. His return to his roots showed the world that Wayne Rooney is still around and that he can still play an influential role in a Premier League team. The first signs are that he could well do just that at Everton.
A top-six spot difficult for Everton
Everton were easily the best of the rest last season in the Premier League, finishing seventh-place, 15 points clear of Southampton in eighth spot. However, the Toffees also finished 8 points behind sixth-placed Manchester United and 15 points behind fourth-place rivals Liverpool.
It will be difficult for the Toffees to improve on last season’s finishing position, especially with such a turnover of playing personnel in the summer. Ronald Koeman’s side are odds of 2/1 to finish in the top six of the English top-flight this season.
Those odds unsurprisingly have the Merseysiders behind the six teams that finished above them last season in the betting.
I have always had mixed feelings about Wayne Rooney. However, from what he has shown so far he has not returned to Everton to put his feet up. It seems he is determined to finish his Premier League career on a high note with his boyhood club. Good luck to England international.
Can Wayne Rooney help Everton finish the top-six this season?
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