Belfast Telegraph

Phil Neville has high hopes for Everton with Wayne Rooney leading the way

Phil Neville has backed Wayne Rooney to lead the charge as Everton look to follow in the footsteps of Tottenham and challenge the established order in the Premier League.

Rooney returned to Goodison Park after a trophy-laden 13-year spell at Manchester United as part of Everton's busy summer of transfer activity.

Ronald Koeman has overseen an influx of talent, including breaking the club's transfer record to sign highly-rated goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from Sunderland.

Attacking midfielder Davy Klaassen arrived from Ajax while England defender Michael Keane was signed from Burnley.

A deal with Malaga saw young forward Sandro Ramirez signed, while Rooney came in just days before Romelu Lukaku went the other way - joining United for a fee believed to be worth £75million.

Neville, speaking at the Star Sixes tournament at London's O2 Arena, has been impressed with Everton's dynamic approach and believes the free signing of former United and England skipper Rooney could be the difference.

"If the transfer window closed today, Everton have done the best business," he said.

"They have been very proactive, they have not waited for Lukaku to leave, they have said 'let's get our players in first and take some of the pressure off'.

"I remember when I was at Everton with David Moyes we sold Joleon Lescott one summer and Mikel Arteta towards the end and when you sell those players it puts added pressure on and fans get a little angry.

"They have actually signed four or five players, the fans are happy, it softens the blow of Lukaku leaving with knowing full well there are one or two more to come.

"I think the signing of Rooney gels it all together for Everton. There is no way Wayne Rooney would go back to Everton if he didn't think they were going to win things, that is for sure."

Neville, who left Old Trafford to move to Everton in 2005 and went on to make over 300 appearances for the Blues, admits never winning silverware at Goodison Park was a bitter pill to swallow but reckons Rooney could help address that.

"He is a winner and will bring that winning mentality to the changing room," he said.

"What he will also bring, that I experienced a little bit at Everton, is that there is a little bit of fear of what it takes to actually win a trophy.

"Everton haven't won a trophy since 1995 and it was always a noose around my neck when I was captain, it was something I felt really pressured into doing because you are always compared to those captains and the teams that were great - I think Rooney has big enough shoulders to spread that kind of experience in the dressing room."

Everton finished seventh last season but were as close to Merseyside rivals Liverpool in fourth as they were to Southampton back in eighth.

With the heavy investment over the summer and things generally looking on the up, Neville believes Everton could be set to add themselves into the mix at the very top of the table in the same manner as Spurs have done under Mauricio Pochettino.

"Everton have to look at Tottenham; Everton are moving into a new stadium, they have a new owner," he added.

"The way they have spent their money and the young players they have coming through, they have to look at Tottenham.

"Four or five years ago Tottenham and Everton were on similar levels, Tottenham kicked on and Everton didn't but now I think they are well capable of doing a Tottenham - producing a young team with a brilliant manager in Ronald Koeman.

"It looks like they have spent the money wisely, I was concerned before they signed anyone as Tottenham bought in five or six players when they sold Gareth Bale and it didn't quite work - you need quality.

"Everton have bought quality and what is more exciting is the young players breaking through - couple that with Wayne Rooney and it should be good. Everton could be one of the teams to watch this year."

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