Some had questioned the quality of Wayne Rooney once he returned to Goodison Park. A shadow of his former self in his final days at Old Trafford, many questioned whether he was cut out to be a key man in a top six Premier League side. On his debut against Stoke City, he showed that he is.
The key moment was his goal. The ideal start and celebrated in passionate style, it came from a move which had Rooney at the heart of it. Rooney dropped deep into the middle to keep the move flowing and shift the ball wide, then ghosted into the middle of the penalty area where he was waiting to head a powerful finish past Jack Butland in the Stoke goal.
Throughout the game, Rooney was commanding. Showing the kind of work rate that Ronald Koeman will require, he was prepared to track back, pressure and fight for the ball just as much as, if not more than his younger team-mates. Showing no sign of the accusations that his legs had gone, he harried and pressured Stoke more than anyone.
His flexibility and versatility was also key to Koeman’s game plan. Whilst Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Sandro Ramirez played as more advanced forwards, Rooney enjoyed more freedom. Sitting in just behind them, Rooney would often arrive to the edge of the penalty box at the perfect time to produce a finish, getting the better of his former team-mate in the Stoke midfield in Darren Fletcher.
He excelled in this deeper playmaker role. He attempted an incredible 13 long balls, five of them finding their target, and his accuracy was even better from a wider role, with five of his eight attempted crosses finding an Everton man. In his brief spell on the right flank, he accounted for more than half of his team’s completed crosses.
It is clear that Rooney will be key to Everton’s game plan this season. Koeman may have to manage him well as it seems unlikely that such all action, energetic displays will be something Rooney can pass every three to four days, but he is a valuable asset for the Dutchman to have available to him.