””

Commentary

Roo's Toffees return will pose sticky issue

Romelu Lukaku was always going to leave a big hole to fill at Everton but few would have predicted a combination of, say, Wayne Rooney and Olivier Giroud, perhaps to take over.

Reported overtures to Arsenal's Giroud make perfect sense. He is a reliable scorer, proven in the Premier League, at 30 he will have a few good years left in him and he was no longer a regular starter under Arsene Wenger.

Giroud, should he move to Merseyside, could be just the cutting edge required for the quick-passing side Ronald Koeman is looking to put together.

Rooney is an entirely different story. Once upon a time, as Everton remember only too well, he brought a cutting edge like no other.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

He has also been spending too much time in the shadows at Manchester United and it is understandable he should wish to seek more game time with his boyhood team, though there is a reason why he dropped off the radar at Old Trafford. Whether used as a striker or a No. 10 in recent seasons, Jose Mourinho, and before him Louis van Gaal, found it difficult to incorporate the club captain into a system that worked.

At 31 Rooney is only a year older than Giroud though, perhaps because he started out so young, his playing career seems to have caught up with him.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic stole all the scoring headlines at United last season, with Rooney barely getting a look-in.

Rooney's impact in his last few seasons at United has been muted, and for that reason it is tempting to wonder not only why Koeman wants him, when there will be money in the kitty after Lukaku's departure, but also where he plans on playing him.

Whereas Giroud was also relegated to a substitute's role at Arsenal, he frequently came off the bench and made a scoring impact.

Rooney's impact in his last few seasons at United has been muted, and for that reason it is tempting to wonder not only why Koeman wants him, when there will be money in the kitty after Lukaku's departure, but also where he plans on playing him.

As a No. 10 seems most likely, if only as the most effective way of making it plain to Ross Barkley other options are available.

Though he has lost much of his pace, Rooney retains an eye for a pass and an ability to deliver from set pieces. Yet, Mourinho was also interested in speeding up the tempo of attacks and in the end he preferred Ander Herrera or Juan Mata.

It is highly debatable whether Rooney is a better bet as a creative playmaker than Barkley, even if there are problems with the younger player's contract.

Gylfi Sigurdsson of Swansea is another player Koeman admires for the same position, and were Everton to be in a position to land the Iceland international it is hard to know what role Rooney may be asked to fulfil.

On the other hand, Everton stand to acquire a lot of leadership, experience and club tradition on a free transfer, even if the wage bill is likely to make Bill Kenwright's eyes water.

Lots of United players have ended up at Everton in recent seasons, from Phil Neville and Tim Howard to Tom Cleverley and Morgan Schneiderlin.

And, looked at in such a way, it is perhaps natural a player should wish to extend his career in the north-west without joining rivals like Manchester City or Liverpool.

Rooney has already spent all his peak years at United. To the naked eye he appears to have none left, but maybe Koeman knows better.

Let us all hope so, for a homecoming hero is always a tale worth telling and it will be good to see Rooney in blue again rather than in China or on the front pages through some sort of boredom-related bother.

Only a killjoy would add a word of warning to such a story, but it is only a year since Mourinho had complete faith in Rooney's ability and so did Roy Hodgson. Neither found a happy ending.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2017, with the headline 'Roo's Toffees return will pose sticky issue'. Print Edition | Subscribe