July is a thin, unforgiving month for the armchair fan - especially one who lives at the ‘wrong’ end of the country. The big teams are all off globe-trotting in their private jumbo’s ‘growing the brand’ while the televised game is on a well earned but well missed summer hiatus. It’s a tough time.
The Lads, however, seem to have shown some common sense and lined up sensible friendlies not too far from base camp. Sensible, yes, but bloody miles away for some of us unfortunately.
Thank goodness for Wayne Rooney then; without whom the papers would be filled with cycling – which isn’t a sport - and Andy Murray, contriving to lose every game at Wimbledon but just failing each time.
But Wayne, Wayne is waning no more, Wayne is back, on the up and heading home (cue music – ‘dah daaaa’), like Frodo in ‘Lord of the Rings’ and Lassie in, well, ‘Lassie Come Home’. He’s back, back where it all started all that time ago - and frankly, no-one’s the least bit surprised. Everton and Wayne have been circling each other, exchanging shy glances like a Poldark storyline for months, until finally, Ronald Koeman and Wayne came face-to-face -
I saw it in his eyes that he wanted me to be part of his team.
It’s called ‘grooming’ Wayne, look it up.
Ron was just as impressed, though:
He knows how to win titles.
as he proved by leaving Everton thirteen years ago and going to play for Man Utd.
But Wayne has learnt his lesson out in the big bad world. He’s back a reformed character, a better man, and he wants to do right by the old place:
I want to be part of it. There will be pressure on me to perform, but I'm ready to go. I believe I can help move this club forward and be more successful on the pitch.
United, meanwhile have been quick to praise their former star. Jose, who hadn’t started Rooney in the first team since, well... ever really, was suitably full of gravitas:
His experience, focus and determination will be missed.
But not so much that they wouldn’t waive any thought of a transfer fee or be happy to contribute towards his £13m per year salary to be sure they got shot of him.
And it seems like both parties were glad of the permanent break, for as Rooney admitted:
I’ve kept it quiet for the last 13 years but I’ve actually been wearing Everton pyjamas at home with my kids.
Okay, apart from the fact that this is a childish raspberry blown back in the direction of his previous employer, there’s something strangely disturbing about the image of Wayne Rooney in Everton pyjamas ‘with his kids’. Not as disturbing as the image of Wayne Rooney doing naked yoga I grant you, but unsettling nonetheless.
Given the Everton spend and activity in the transfer window so far this summer it’s plain that they have huge ambitions for next season, and many pundits have questioned where Rooney would be able to fit in with the new set-up.
Luckily for Ron, Wayne has that one covered. Passing him on the M62 heading east was Romelu Lukaku, looking to fill a Zlatan Ibrahimović-sized-hole in the Utd front line and leaving a similar gap up front for Everton.
Wayne is tired of been shunted back into the midfield. Wayne is on a mission. Wayne has announced that he’s going to play only as a striker and wear Lukaku’s number 10 shirt.
A slightly hung-over and half-asleep Ross Barkley wakes up and thinks, ‘‘hang-on, wasn’t I going to wear the number ten shirt?”
At which point he receives a text from Ron containing Mark Hughes’ phone number.
Ron has other plans for Wayne though:
We have a lot of young players and sometimes in life you need somebody who you look up to, who you learn from... one of the functions for Wayne is to show the rest of the team why he is - and still is - that player.
Well, if Wayne is going to be ‘that player’ he needs to buck his ideas up because by the time he left Manchester he was about as popular as Theresa May on a fundraising drive for the Tory Christmas bash.
This was the man don’t forget, who played 559 times for United, was their record goalscorer with 253 goals, winning five Premier League titles during that time as well as the Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup! Yet they let him leave without as much as a whisper.
In the eyes of the United supporters, and the Club itself, he no longer embodied the Manchester United spirit or ethos. To some he wasn’t fit enough, or didn’t try hard enough; others could never forgive him for holding the Club to ransom over interest from Manchester City and Chelsea to use as leverage to gain salary increases
In short perhaps, he saw himself as bigger than the Club, and that doesn’t go down well at United - and it won’t go down well at Everton. Wayne will have to learn a little humility if he’s going to be ‘that player’, I think.
Perhaps he’d could start by explaining the whole pyjama thing.
Rooney Tunes - that’s all folks!