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Wayne Rooney’s return gives Everton’s revival a leader

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Wayne Rooney sat next to Ronald Koeman smiling from ear to ear as he held the Everton jersey once again.

These two are the forefront of Everton’s revival.

[ MORE: Rooney United’s best ever? ]

Being unveiled to the media on Monday at Goodison Park, the all-time leading goalscorer for Manchester United and England had returned to the club where he made his name and the team he still supports.

Rooney, 31, repeatedly stated that Everton’s aim must be to win a trophy for the first time since 1995 and his burning desire is to help his boyhood club in their exciting new era.

Both Rooney and Koeman acknowledged that there’s extra pressure on Everton given their summer of spending, and both know they have to deliver. Now.

“With Ronald’s ideas and the players we are bringing in, it’s on us,” Rooney said. “It’s alright sitting here saying ‘we want to win trophies’ but it’s on us as a football club to make sure we do that. That’s why we have to work hard and make sure we are in the best position to do that… That’s why you play football, to win trophies. That’s of course the target and the aim. That’s what we want to do. We don’t want to limp around in the season, we want to be successful. I know we have the right man to lead us to do that.”

Koeman may well have the right man in Rooney to lead his young, talented squad and Rooney admitted that the decision to go back was “a no-brainer” while his manager spoke of Rooney’s desperation to return.

After spending 13 years away winning every trophy possible at Manchester United, Rooney has now returned hungry to prove the doubters wrong and it’s clear that Koeman has big plans for the Evertonian.

When asked where Rooney would play — now a key question for most of his managers as father time catches up with him — Koeman gave an intriguing answer.

“Everybody knows the qualities of Wayne. It is try to get more productivity, we spoke about last season. He is a striker,” Koeman said. “Offensively he can be a No.10 behind the striker. A free role from the left. The No.9. The No.7. That’s the position he will play.”

In short: he will be used wherever and whenever he’s needed. Rooney seems just fine with that after spending a season mostly on the bench at Old Trafford under Jose Mourinho.

“I needed to play more games and I didn’t play that often last season. I know I’m at my best when I’m playing games consistently,” Rooney said. “I spoke with Jose [Mourinho] and it was the right time for me to leave and go and play somewhere else and I firmly believed Everton was the right option for me to do that.”

Koeman now has a figurehead to build his team around.

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Last season was his first in charge at Goodison and although his young team excited with a seventh-place finish, flirting with a top four finish for a little while, losing the goals of Romelu Lukaku (his move to Manchester United is close to completion) will hurt the Toffees.

Koeman wants to see “several players scoring 10-15 goals rather than one scoring 25” and with Sandro, Davy Klaassen and Rooney coming in to compliment Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, Yannick Bolasie and others, all of a sudden Everton is loaded with different attacking options.

Given his experience of delivering on the big stage, Rooney could be the key cog.

“The experience of Wayne is really important to win something and to bring to the rest of the players,” Koeman said. “We have some good older players in the team, there is a lot of experience, but we have some really good young talented football players. It’s an example for them to learn from him and learn from other players in the team. Altogether it was really important for me to try to bring Wayne back to the club.”

Koeman suggested more new arrivals would follow as Everton are linked with deals for Olivier Giroud, Gylfi Sigurdsson and others, but it is Rooney who will help knit everything together.

A true blue at heart, the Liverpudlian striker revealed he is ready for the next step of his career and brushed off talk of him returning to the England squad, simply saying that if his performances are good enough for Everton then Gareth Southgate can’t possibly ignore him.

“I was at the stage of my career when I had to take the next step,” Rooney said. “I thought about it and obviously after speaking to Ronald, the discussions we had, I knew it was where I needed to play and needed to be. I’m excited. I just can’t wait to get out there and play.”

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Whether or not Rooney will be handed the captains armband remains to be seen, but winning trophies for Everton is at the forefront of his mind and if he can regain his best form then this addition will look like a masterclass from Koeman.

What if he could lead Everton to their first piece of silverware in over two decades?

“It would be incredible,” Rooney replied. “I was at the final in 1995 and to win a trophy as an Everton player, it would be a special moment.”

Everton’s fans, Rooney and Koeman are hoping they are the start of a special era for the Toffees.

With big money spent on new players, a new stadium on the way and youngsters rising to the first team, having a local lad and die-hard fan leading the charge is almost the fairytale scenario.

Their Dutch manager knows fairytale’s don’t come true without spending big and putting the right type of players together.

“We want to continue what we did last season,” Koeman explained. “Everybody knows everyone is trying to get the best players and all the big six in the Premier League, they will try and spend money as well. But I think that it is a good signal to everybody that we are on board and we will try to give them that competition that we didn’t last season. We did well last season but now we need to make the next step. To make the next step we need to get that type of player in and with the type of qualities to improve.”

Rooney, Koeman and Everton will take the next step together.

Alonso, Pedro have Morata’s back despite Spain omission

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Alvaro Morata having his troubles keeping his spot in the Chelsea lineup, and his omission from the Spain squad has a couple of his teammates speaking up on his behalf.

Marcos Alonso, himself called up to Spain, and Pedro (not called up) have Morata’s back after the big striker scored at the weekend in FA Cup action.

[ MORE: Rojo’s hilarious Alexis signing reaction ]

Alonso admitted that Morata was less than pleased to miss the call-up so close to the World Cup.

“Alvaro wasn’t happy,” Alonso said. “He has gone through a difficult few months with a back injury. He is now 100 per cent and the other day he scored.He is a very important player for us. I hope he will do well from here until the end of the season and he gets to go to the World Cup.”

It’s not like Morata hasn’t performed for Spain; The 25-year-old has 13 goals in 23 caps for La Furia Roja.

But Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has opted for just four traditional strikers, with Chelsea outcast Diego Costa leading the way in caps (16) and goals (6). Also in the squad: Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas (7 and 3), Valencia’s Rodrigo (3 and 1), and Real Madrid’s Lucas Vasquez (3 and 0).

Pedro pointed to Morata’s goal against Leicester City as a milemarker, via

“I’m very happy for Alvaro to score again and hopefully that will give him the confidence to score more. Alvaro is a very good player and an important part of our team. It’s important for him to score and to help the side and hopefully he can continue to do that until the end of the season.He had a back injury but now he’s in a very good condition and it’s a good time for him. I think his back is perfect now and hopefully he can keep scoring, because we all know just how good he is.’

Morata has been on the rise for several seasons, but hasn’t performed at a consistent level in his last three seasons at Juventus, Real Madrid, and Chelsea.

He had more of a playmaking streak at Juve, but has been a straight-up target man for both Real and Chelsea. His 13 goals and five assists certainly aren’t poor, but Antonio Conte clearly expected more from the Spaniard. Will his confidence be boosted before the end of the season?

Rojo’s reaction to Sanchez joining Man Utd was priceless

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Speaking to an Argentine publication while on duty, the Manchester United defender shared a number of interesting tidbits.

[ MORE: Young backs Luke Shaw ]

The first, and perhaps funnier one, came from a family visit to Manchester for the Christmas holiday, as Rojo set off a bunch of fireworks in his neighborhood, one he did not realize was shared with United legend Alex Ferguson.

Rojo said Ferguson saw him the next day and congratulated him on “the light show,” with the defender quipping that he thought he might be on his way out of the Old Trafford set-up.

But the more quotable translation comes from the Argentine learning that Chilean superstar and Premier League rival Alexis Sanchez was traded Arsenal red for the same hue at United.

Rojo said Sanchez has turned out to be a lovely guy, but that doesn’t change his initial shock at the news. From TYC Sports, translated by The Mirror,

“Every time we came up against one another, whether in internationals or when United played Arsenal, I would give him a good kicking – and he did the same to me.

“On top of that I used to insult him, and he would reply in kind. So when I learned that he was going to join United I said: ‘Oh, ******* hell, no, now this guy’s going to be here’.”

It likely happens more often than we know, given the competitive nature and furious tackling at the highest level. The old cliche “You’d love him if he was on your team” leaves out the fact that he’s also no longer on the opposition, beating you up.

Not to mention, there’s always that opening conversation, “Hey, that thing I said about your parents…”

Bradley, TFC not freaking over winless start (video)

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Toronto FC is Major League Soccer’s reigning champion, coming off one of the finest seasons in league history, and perhaps the best hope yet for a CONCACAF Champions League title.

It’s also in last place after three Match days in the 2018 season.

[ MORE: Top MLS free agents ]

That’s a tough juggling act, at least emotionally. Given the long and forgiving MLS season, TFC is going to be fine. But the Reds also have a group of players and executives not exactly known for resting on laurels.

TFC has not scored in losses to Columbus and Montreal, but rang up four goals over two matches in knocking UANL Tigres out of the CCL.

So on one hand, yeah, unprecedented success for the club. On the other…

“It’s certainly not ideal to look at the table for the next 13 days until we play again,” Bradley said. “On the other hand it’s been a busy start and we’ve gotta use the time over the next little stretch to regroup mentally, physically for what we hope is a really busy time.”

To recap: Yes, TFC deservedly advanced to next month’s CCL semifinal tie with Mexican monster Club American. No, they aren’t happy to lose a pair of league matches (even if they could’ve easily taken results in both with two favorable bounces).

“Let’s be a little bit honest and also say in the moment that while there have been things in these two league games that haven’t been good enough, we’ve been a little bit unlucky in terms of balls rolling across the goal line and some big chances that we haven’t been able to score on. You have to look at it from all angles. We’re certainly not happy,” Bradley said.

Young backs Man United teammate Shaw to become star

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Ashley Young‘s performances on the field and in training have helped keep Luke Shaw off the field, but the veteran winger sees the potential in Shaw that manager Jose Mourinho may not.

Per the BBC, Young said that Shaw could be among the “best in the world” at his position. Shaw was substituted off at halftime of Man United’s 2-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup and was publicly criticized by Mourinho after the game, sparking controversy and plenty of conversation in the media over the past 48 hours.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

“I want to see him doing well,” Young said. “It’s like all players, you just have to get your head down and work. He’s a fantastic player. He can be one of the best in the world.”

Shaw has struggled to make an impact and live up to expectations since making a $42 million move from Southampton to Old Trafford in 2014 as a 19-year-old. Shaw has made 99 Premier League appearances over the last four seasons for Man United but he’s been marginalized this season with just seven appearances.

When he moved to Man United, he likely looked at the 2018 World Cup as a goal, in which he could cement his place as the England left back of the future. Now, he’ll almost surely be watching the tournament from home, wondering what went wrong along the way.