Rooney reflects on a decade at the top
Wayne Rooney is aiming to have as much fun in his second decade as a Premier League player as he did in his first. It is amazing to think ten years have passed since Rooney made his top-flight bow as a raw 16-year-old for Everton against Tottenham.
That Rooney should be heading back to Goodison Park to mark the occasion seems somehow fitting, even if the reception he gets from the supporters he has always considered himself one of tends to be less than friendly these days.
With four Premier League titles and a UEFA Champions League winners' medal to show for his time at Manchester United, Rooney has no need to justify why he left the Toffees just two years after that momentous debut.
But he realises there is much more to achieve. "I'm still fairly young," he said. "I feel young anyway. It's great to have played in the Premier League for ten years.
"It's an exciting league and I still feel exactly the same about my football as I did when I made my debut. It does feel like a long time ago, though. I just hope I can play for another ten years and have as much enjoyment as I did in my first ten."
Rooney should get more pleasure now he can count last season's Golden Boot winner Robin van Persie amongst his team-mates. Van Persie's arrival has livened up the atmosphere around Old Trafford after three years of seeing all the marquee players land at Manchester City.
Not that everything is rosy for Sir Alex Ferguson amid reports that Rio Ferdinand is set for an extended period on the sidelines after picking up a training ground injury. With Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling also sidelined, Michael Carrick seems certain to partner skipper Nemanja Vidic in central defence tomorrow. And Vidic's fitness cannot be taken for granted as he only made his comeback from major knee surgery a fortnight ago.
Rafael is set to be handed the right-back berth even though he did not feature at all during pre-season as he was part of the Brazil squad that failed to land that elusive Olympic gold medal. It is hardly ideal ahead of a meeting with Everton.
David Moyes' side have proved to be troublesome opponents over the last couple of seasons. Two years ago the Merseyside outfit scored twice in injury time to snatch a point on home soil and their equally staggering comeback at Old Trafford last April, when they recovered from 4-2 down inside the final ten minutes, is viewed by many as the day when United's title aspirations suffered their most damaging jolt.
Of all people, Rooney knows exactly how Everton will be feeling ahead of their opening outing. "It is a really tough first game," he said. "Over the last few years, Everton have not really started well in the league.
"But, as an Evertonian, I know, both growing up and playing for them, when Manchester United go to Goodison, the whole place is lifted and the fans make it far more difficult. That game last season probably did cost us the league, so we have an incentive to get the three points."
Everton have benefited from a slightly less disrupted build-up than usual too. Although Moyes has again been forced to sell, the loss of Jack Rodwell will not be felt quite as keenly as previous departures.
And Rooney knows it will not affect Everton's strategy. "Everton work extremely hard," he said. "They are a really fit team, so you need to keep possession and try to tie them down.
"They have got a couple of good results against us in the last couple of seasons when we really should have won the games. This time, we need to make sure if we do go ahead, we stay focused and see the game out."