Everton takes on Manchester United tomorrow. The match will be shown on ESPN2 at 7:30 a.m. (Eastern Time). It comes during quite a stretch for Everton. Our last two league games were against Liverpool (a 0-1 loss, away) and Chelsea (a 2-1 win, at home). In addition, in mid-week we defeated Sporting Lisbon 2-1, at home.
Tomorrow’s match will also be at home, and thus will feature the return of Wayne Rooney. Rooney, of course, has played at Goodison Park many times since we sold him to United, in 2004, but tomorrow will be a little different.
First, Rooney now returns not just as a star of the English Premier League, but also (at last) as a world super-star. Until this year, Rooney didn’t score enough to hold that status. But this season, with Christian Ronaldo gone, he has already scored 25 times in all competitions, the most recent two coming in Italy against powerhouse AC Milan.
Rooney’s manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, a tough critic if ever there was one, says he’s now convinced that his star forward is one of the world’s best players. Everton manager David Moyes, with whom Rooney has clashed big-time, concurs.
This leads to the second reason why tomorrow is different — Rooney and Moyes have reconciled. Rooney attacked Moyes in his autobiography and Moyes responded by threatening to sue his former charge for libel. But now Moyes has only kind words for Rooney. Last year, Rooney called Moyes to apologize and Moyes admits that Everton “probably weren’t ready for Wayne Rooney at the time.”
I’m hoping that Everton fans will be a little less vitriolic towards Rooney tomorrow. Personally, I never faulted the Boy Wonder for leaving what looked like a sinking ship to play for one of the five best clubs in the world. Now that Rooney and Moyes are reconciled, there seems to be little reason to hate Rooney. By all accounts, Rooney still roots for Everton and follows our games closely.
As for the match, Everton will be hampered by the absence of its two midfield stars, Mo Fellaini and Tim Cahill. Fellaini is gone for the rest of the season following a horrible challenge by Liverpool’s Greek defender Kyrgiakos (for which he was sent off). With the possible exception of Louis Saha (ex-Manchester United), Fellaini has probably been our best player this season.
On the plus side, midfielder de luxe Mikel Arteta has finally returned from injury, though he seems to have forgotten how to deliver a decent ball. And Landon Donovan’s performance against Chelsea suggests that, the better the oppostion, the better he plays.
The main challenge, though, will be the one that every team that plays Man U these days faces: how to contain Wayne Rooney.
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