On his homecoming to Goodison Park, prodigal son Wayne Rooney confessed after making a winning return that is was a ‘great feeling’ to play for his boyhood club again.
The England star made his first competitive outing for Everton in 13 years as the Toffees swept aside Slovakian side Ruzomberok in the first leg of the Europa League third qualifying round on Thursday night.
Leighton Baines got the only goal of the game on 65 minutes with a deflected shot from 20 yards in a frustrating display from Ronald Koeman’s men.
Rooney was largely quiet when playing as the lone forward but got better as the match went on when moved to the no.10 role behind the striker. Everton dominated possession for the majority of the tie but they had to thank goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who made a crucial save by turning Jan Maslo’s header on to the crossbar.
It was in 2004 when then-teenage Rooney left for Manchester United in a £27million deal and the move back to Goodison Park on a free this summer has caused much debate as his move to Old Trafford did 13 years ago.
While his legs are not as sharp as they once were to play as a forward, he looks at home playing the attacking midfield role with his intelligence and creativity but only Koeman knows where the 31-year-old will fit into his plans.
“It was great, obviously,” Rooney told the Club’s official website after the game, “I’ve been looking forward to it now for the last few weeks and I’m just pleased we got the win. It was a tough game.
“It was obviously great to be out at Goodison and in the blue shirt again. It was a fantastic feeling but it was an important game for us so I had to put my emotions to one side.
“Thankfully, I’ve done that again now and now I can get down to focusing on the football for the up-and-coming months.
“It’s important to remember we’re still very early on in our pre-season, it’s a first 90 minutes for a lot of us and we know we can play better than we did. But it was important we got the win and the clean sheet.”
Everton will travel to Slovakia for the second leg in six days’ time before they kick-off the Premier League with the visit of Stoke City to Goodison Park.