Rooney to put hype behind him

Wayne Rooney, back in an Everton jersey, misses a chance to score during the Toffees' 1-0 win against MFK Ruzomberok in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier on Thursday. The former United captain said he was putting the emotion behind him i
Wayne Rooney, back in an Everton jersey, misses a chance to score during the Toffees' 1-0 win against MFK Ruzomberok in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier on Thursday. The former United captain said he was putting the emotion behind him in order to concentrate on his football.PHOTO: REUTERS

Everton homecoming gets under way with a 1-0 victory in Europa League first-leg qualifier

LONDON • Wayne Rooney basked in a successful and emotional homecoming with Everton on Thursday, but admitted that he is glad the occasion is now behind him.

The former England and Manchester United captain made his second debut for his boyhood club in their laboured 1-0 Europa League qualifying first-leg tie against the Slovakian side MFK Ruzomberok.

It was a frustrating and testing night for an Everton side who have spent huge on summer transfers following the near-£90 million (S$160 million) sale of Romelu Lukaku to United, and it took a deflected goal from defender Leighton Baines to earn his team a lead ahead of next week's return leg.

And Rooney was pleased that he can now concentrate on football after the hype and pressure of his first game back with Everton in 13 years are finally behind him.

"I think I've said everything the last few weeks but obviously it was great to be out at Goodison in a blue shirt," said Rooney. "It was a great feeling.

"This was an important game for us and I had to put my emotions to one side and thankfully I've done that again.

"Now I can get down more to focusing on the football over the coming weeks.

"It's still very early in our pre-season, it was a first 90 minutes for a lot of us, but we got the win and the clean sheet."

Everton manager Ronald Koeman handed four debuts to starters - Rooney, Davy Klaassen, Michael Keane and Cuco Martina - while a fifth debutant, Sandro Ramirez, made an impressive impact as a second-half substitute.

"Winning 1-0 with a clean sheet is not a bad result in Europe," Koeman said. "Maybe people were expecting a bigger score but you cannot expect to be at 100 per cent in the first game of the season.

"We didn't pass the ball well enough in the first half although we looked sharper in the second.

"I'd like to have created a little bit more, scored more goals, but they worked very hard and got a clean sheet. There were a lot of positives after four weeks of pre-season."

One player not handed a debut by Koeman was £30 million goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, with Maarten Stekelenburg preferred instead.

However, Koeman revealed that the former Sunderland man and Britain's most expensive goalkeeper may be handed his first start in the return leg.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2017, with the headline 'Rooney to put hype behind him'. Print Edition | Subscribe