Rooney ends drought to reveal true colours
Everton 0 Man Utd 3
Wayne Rooney's first thoughts after leading Manchester United to probably their most emphatic victory at Goodison Park in the Premier League era were distant ones.
They were not of his first goal at Everton for eight years that ensured only Alan Shearer has scored more in the Premier League. They were for Howard Kendall, the man who had managed what will always be Rooney's club to the great peaks of English football. He wanted to send his condolences to the Kendall family more than he wanted to talk about the 187th league goal of his career, and his first at Goodison since 2007, that sealed a 3-0 win.
The next time Rooney takes the field in the Premier League he will be 30, an age when footballers look back as well as forward to a time when the floodlights fade.
He was not barracked at Goodison, as he has been ever since he forced through a move to Manchester United after declaring: "Once a Blue, always a Blue." That slogan could have referred to Kendall, who said that while managing Manchester City, Athletic Bilbao and Sheffield United seemed like affairs, Everton was always a marriage.
The present Everton manager, Roberto Martinez, felt Rooney's appearance in a blue shirt for Duncan Ferguson's testimonial in August may have softened feelings towards him. To Louis van Gaal, Rooney is a more mature, more rounded person than he expected when he first arrived at Old Trafford to manage Manchester United.
"He is an example not only for his fellow players but also for other players from other clubs because he is a very social human being and he has a professional attitude," Van Gaal said. "I could not imagine that before I came to United. I had heard other things about him but he has shown a fantastic attitude."
Saturday's victory, co-ordinated by Ander Herrera, was a big one for United. Memories of the capitulation at Arsenal had lingered over the Carrington training base for two long weeks.
Van Gaal said he had convened "about 15 meetings" after the defeat and could not consider Antonio Valencia and Sergio Romero for the trip because they had not even returned from international duty in South America when he was overseeing an 11 v 11 practice match on Thursday. "It was a hell of a job to prepare for the game," he said.
It may not have been coincidence that Herrera was one of the very few left behind during the international break that saw Memphis Depay and Daley Blind learn that they will not be going to Euro 2016.
Rooney will be leading England in France, even if he is not quite "the best player in the history of English football", as Herrera described him.
Independent News Service