After 13 years at Old Trafford Wayne Rooney has returned to Goodison Park and will once again be an Everton player. After all his years of loyal service to Manchester United and winning everything on offer he will go down as a club legend but the time to leave was right as his influence at United feigned away.
So how can the record goal scorer for his former club and country reinvent himself to be a success at the club where he first made his name?
Having been the captain of Manchester United and England, Wayne Rooney brings with him a certain leadership that every manager needs. Although he will not be the captain of Everton he will be a major influence in the dressing room for the players who might be struggling with confidence, form or settling into the side.
As stated, he has been there and done it all. From being there as 22-year-old when Manchester United had to pull through against Chelsea in Moscow (2008) to help his side lift the F.A Cup in 2016 with a captain’s performance, the Liverpudlian has the ability to drag his side over the line to glory.
As Everton have not won a trophy since 1995, Rooney’s know-how of winning trophies will be vital if Ronald Koeman and co are to break the hoodoo anytime soon.
When Jose Mourinho arrived at Manchester United last season he said the England striker will play as a number 10; his main striker. However, judging by the way Rooney was deployed, he could no longer be trusted to be the man that 20+ goals in a season anymore. The last time Rooney managed to achieve that feat was back in 2011-12 season as United were pipped to the league title by city rivals Manchester City.
He has certainly lost that firepower up front but under Louis Van Gaal in a slightly deeper role he was a menace. Take for example the F.A Cup final where he dropped into “the hole” and weaved past three Crystal Palace defenders then dug out a cross which found Marouane Fellaini who in turn teed up Juan Mata to score the equaliser at Wembley. Rooney should look back at that for inspiration but Koeman should allow him that freedom to help dictate the play rather than be relied upon for his goals.
Experience for the younger players
Although he brings leadership to the side in a holistic approach, he also brings the experience of growing up as a footballer in this modern era. Rooney is no angel and he will be the first to admit it having appeared on the front pages of tabloids for all the wrong reasons. However, he has fought back time and time again from these setbacks to become a better footballer as well as a better man.
He will be a major influence on the next bunch of talented footballers coming through at Everton. Especially the likes of Tom Davies, Ademola Lookman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. All attack minded players having the chance to play with England’s all-time record goal scorer. It will be a huge opportunity for them and they need to embrace it with open arms.
Accept he is not the main man anymore
The Croxteth born attacker has to accept that he is not number one anymore. He may have moved to Everton for more first team opportunities and that is the right thing to do as they will be more forthcoming than they would be at Old Trafford but he will have to accept he will not be the first player on the team sheet anymore.
Managers in the past have tried to force him into unnatural positions just because he is Wayne Rooney but that cannot be the case anymore.
Koeman knows he has a player who loves the club, who is always hungry for more and who will be disappointed not to play. That means he will have to manage Rooney in a different way than he might approach others. He will more than likely need put an arm round his shoulder and tell him how important he is to the side; which he will be.
Improve his first touch
When he burst onto the scene in 2002 he was unbelievable and that was all raw talent bursting out of him. His goal for Everton against Arsenal summed up how much of a quality player he was and still is.
His first touch to delicately pluck the ball out of the air, alongside the quick turn away from the defenders to put Lauren and Sol Campbell on the back foot matched with the composure he showed to take a few strides forward curling the ball into the top corner past the England number one at the time was simply sublime.
However, if you compare him with players of similar age especially his former Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo you will see a stark contrast. Whilst the Englishman’s first touch and pace is deserting him, his former teammate is still one of the best players in the world attracting glamorous offers from all around the world.
Rooney does not seem to have the elite mentality that Ronaldo has. Now, I am not saying he is not committed to improving but we can all see that he has experienced a decline whilst his Portuguese counterpart has grown from strength to strength.
There is work for him to do at Everton and he should not take anything for granted as he eagerly anticipates his full debut.
He has the ability to prove to Gareth Southgate that he can get back into the England squad and come close to the heights that he once hit playing for Manchester United.