Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Evertonians determined to welcome Wayne Rooney into hell

Wayne Rooney's activities seem to have drawn the red and blue halves of Merseyside together.

Several proposed Rooney chants for today's Goodison Park encounter between Everton and Manchester United were washing through the Twitter community yesterday and Liverpool supporters were delighted with them.

“Genius. Fair play to them if they actually do it,” one fans' site Tweeted.

A hostile welcome will await Rooney on Merseyside but away from the terraces, his family life is suffering as a statement issued yesterday revealed.

A prepared statement released by Wayne and his wife Coleen appealed for privacy, saying: “It is impossible for us, as it would be for any family, to attempt to resolve any issues in the current media glare and against the backdrop of so many inaccurate and intrusive stories.”

But will Rooney have lost sleep last night over the welcome which awaits him this lunchtime?

The answer to this question resides in David Moyes' disclosure yesterday that he had recently contacted Rooney to ask if he would be willing to play for an Everton XI at Anfield in Jamie Carragher's testimonial game last Saturday and received an enthusiastic ‘yes.’

“Wayne was keen to play,” Moyes said. “We couldn't get him but if [it had been] possible Wayne would have played in that game.”

To clarify: that is Rooney agreeing to return to play in front of 35,000 people, some of whom have never forgiven him for leaving their club, at a stadium whose fans have never really forgiven his existence.

If he was enthusiastic for that, then we know for sure that this week will not have created the remotest anxiety for Rooney the footballer that it might have done for Rooney the husband and father.

More’s the pity that Moyes’ approach to Rooney never bore fruit, of course.

The Everton manager's informal contact with Sir Alex Ferguson about the idea led him to believe there may be a chance of Rooney averting what proved to be a 4-1 defeat for the Everton side. But international responsibilities proved an insurmountable object to an appearance which would have put Rooney on Merseyside on the day the scandal broke.

Moyes' gesture is still a revealing one, though.

The manager, aware of his former prodigy's impending return to Goodison, felt it would further remove the heat from an occasion which has become less vitriolic for Rooney in recent years.

It was in keeping with his decision, the day before the last such encounter in February, to disclose Rooney's apology for libelling him in his biography.

“The hostility has changed,” Moyes said yesterday.

He was talking about his fans’

feelings though the same might be said of the two of them.

Moyes actually seems to be developing an affection for Rooney as the years pass and the old wounds heal.

To judge by Moyes' steadfast refusal to discuss the ramifications of the sex scandal yesterday, you wondered whether Sir Alex Ferguson had contacted his compatriot asking him to close ranks.

“I think if you are a good football journalist you don't ask that question,” Moyes said when ‘that’ question was finally put. “If you are a gossip journalist you do ask that question.”

Which was a decidedly more subtle reply than that of Ferguson, who was lobbed a couple of gentle half volleys on Rooney but made it clear that three strikes on that subject and he would be out of the room.

“Listen, I am not discussing any of my players personally. OK? Let's put that to bed,” Ferguson said.” And a few minutes later —

“I am not going into that. Please, have you not heard what I said?”

Merseyside, both blue and red, has had a curiously effect on Rooney, who has still scored only once for the visiting side at Goodison and twice at Anfield for United. Ferguson is highly unlikely to remove the 24-year-old from the line of fire — “it wouldn't matter if we had Dixie Dean playing for us, it is always a bloody nightmare going there but we've only lost there three times in 24 years,” he pointed out,” — but the effect on Rooney come 12.45pm is hard to predict.

The more so because United are still waiting for a performance from him to equal the match-winning one against Bulgaria at Wembley eight days ago.

Granted, he has only two league games behind him but Dimitar Berbatov, displaying such improbable levels of commitment that you sense Ferguson may have tackled the issue of his languid style in the close season, is the one who has been catching the eye.

Everton's Mikel Arteta, for one, certainly won't be offering up any triumphalist Tweets before this lunchtime.

Great players can take inspiration from crisis, he observed — “and it can make it worse for you because they can react and show what they are able to do. Look at [Cristiano] Ronaldo after the (2006) World Cup when he was involved in that stuff with Rooney. At every ground the fans were getting on his back, and he reacted by having his best season.”

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