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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.

Brighton sign Aaron Mooy on permanent deal

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Aaron Mooy has signed for Brighton and Hove Albion on a permanent deal after impressing while on loan from Huddersfield Town.

Mooy, 29, has signed a three-and-a-half year contract with the Seagulls as the Australian international midfielder has become an integral part of Graham Potter‘s side who started the season well but have suffered a dip in form in recent months.

The former Melbourne City and Huddersfield star initially joined Brighton on loan in the summer but he move has now been made permanent and the reported transfer fee is in the region of $6.5 million. Pretty good business for a goalscoring midfielder with supreme quality from set piece situations.

Speaking about his permanent move to the Amex Stadium, Mooy revealed he is delighted to be at the club, totally feels at home and is enjoying the open, attacking style the Seagulls play.

“I feel like I’ve progressed, but of course you can always improve and do more,” Mooy said. “It’s about playing well consistently, but I am quite happy because you never know what can happen when you move clubs. You have a new manager, teammates and a new environment to adapt to, but it’s been really good. I like the way we play and it’s enjoyable to be a part of.”

Mooy has scored twice and added an assist and those contributions have all come in the last six weeks as he’s become extremely important to the way Brighton play. His eye for a pass, composure on the ball and ability to dictate the tempo of games from a wide left or central position has been key to Brighton hanging in games.

That said, they are just two points above the relegation zone so they will need plenty more goals like the one from Mooy below if they’re going to pull away from the drop zone in the weeks and months to come.

Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed

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A list of possible new strikers for Manchester United has been revealed and it includes players you probably weren’t expecting to suit up for the Red Devils.

According to our partners Sky Sports in the UK, forwards Odion Ighalo and Islam Slimani are possible loan options for United this month.

With Marcus Rashford out injured until March, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to bolster his forward line with only Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood as center forwards.

But Ighalo and Slimani I hear you cry…

Well, in short, both are available and both would obviously be very willing to move to Man United on a short-term basis to put themselves in the shop window for either a permanent move or to give themselves another crack at the Premier League for next season.

Ighalo, 30, is currently playing for Shanghai Shenhua in China and the forward Watford forward has been pushing for a move back to England for some time. It seems that the Nigerian international (who scored 39 goals in 99 appearances for the Hornets in two-and-a-half seasons from 2014) is linked with a PL move each and every window.

As for Slimani, 31, the Algerian striker cost Leicester City $35 million in 2016 but has been out on loan to Newcastle, Fenerbache and most recently Monaco as things just haven’t worked out for him with the Foxes. Slimani has been playing well in France so far this season, scoring seven goals in 13 Ligue 1 games for Monaco, and like Ighalo he is a target man who can hold the ball up and bring others into play. That would be perfect for United’s fast wingers and both men would be good short-term loan options.

With other forwards such as Edinson Cavani, Fernando Llorente and even Carlos Tevez mentioned as short term options, the deals for Ighalo and Slimani seem more realistic if not slightly uninspiring. With the move for Bruno Fernandes stalling as United are $14 million off Sporting Lisbon’s asking price plus youngster Jude Bellingham a target but one for the future, their attack needs immediate help to try and stay in the top four hunt in the final months of the season.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and Solskjaer has revealed United are pushing hard to complete one or two deals before the January transfer window shuts next Friday, Jan. 31.

Nobody would have speculated that Slimani and/or Ighalo would be the deals United are trying to make happen.

Chelsea issue update on Abraham injury, striker search

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Chelsea boss Frank Lampard has issued an update on Tammy Abraham‘s ankle injury and has also been talking about their search for a new striker.

Lampard isn’t shy when it comes to admitting the Blues need help up front as he’s already lavished praise on Edinson Cavani this month and given the uncertainty around Abraham’s injury, he looks set to dip into the market in the final days of the January window.

Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Hull City in the FA Cup, Lampard gave this update on the knock Abraham suffered in the closing stages of their wild 2-2 draw with Arsenal on Tuesday.

“The good news is that he hasn’t fractured anything, we were worried about a hairline fracture,” Lampard said.  “The other news is we will have to see how he develops. It’s not clear cut,” Lampard said. “He’s not fit for the weekend, whether he’ll be fit for Leicester we’re still not sure. It’s not clear at the moment.”

In short, they aren’t sure how long Abraham will be out for and that is concerning as he’s been their main man up top all season long.

Lampard was perhaps more candid than he has ever been when discussing Chelsea’s ongoing hunt to find some help for Abraham, who has

“I think the impetus to bring in a striker or a player to get on the end of chances is there and we have to be honest about that,” Lampard added. “Recent games have shown that if we are creating chances that’s one problem, but if you’re creating 20 chances a game then it can be crucial. It doesn’t absolutely change [the situation], but with Tammy being our main source of goals it’s very relevant. I think there is choice. It is not the ideal window. I think history has proved that though there have been good acquisitions in the short term and long term. It is about getting it right. The club know my thoughts on it.”

When it comes to strikers leaving Chelsea, both Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi have been linked with moves away from Chelsea in the final week of the window and Lampard admitted Giroud, 33, could leave as Inter Milan circle.

“With Olivier, we are still in the same position. We will keep contact with other clubs and if and when that’s agreed then we will let you know. So he’s still our player on those terms,” Lampard said.

Unless Chelsea bring in a new striker it would be wild for them to let one of Giroud or Batshuayi leave with the severity of Abraham’s injury not clear.

Even if Abraham does return soon, he needs help as his goals have dried up. The Chelsea academy product was on fire at the start of the season, scoring 10 of his 14 Premier League goals by the start of November. He also scored his first England goal in November but has hit a bit of a barren spell with three goals in his last 10 appearances in all competitions. The chances have been created but Abraham just hasn’t been putting them away like he was earlier in the season.

An experienced striker like Cavani or someone else is a must and they can help ease the burden on Abraham who is now set for a spell on the sidelines. Fourth-place Chelsea have a six-point gap to Man United in fifth and if they want to keep their Champions League qualification hopes on track they need a new striker to arrive in the final week of the window.

New Premier League schedule for March announced

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The Premier League have announced their new schedule for March as date and times have been switched for certain games.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Some of the matches changed to new windows include the Manchester Derby on Mar. 8, a potentially huge clash in the top four battle between Tottenham and Man United on Mar. 15 and what could be a very special Merseyside Derby (for Liverpool, anyway) as the Reds travel to Everton on Mar. 16 with the title surely in reach by that point.

Chelsea v. Man City on Mar. 21 is also a very tasty looking clash as there are a smattering of local derbies and intriguing clashes in the battle for Europe which have also been switched to new dates.

Below is the new schedule for March in full and remember, due to Daylight Savings kicking in there will be just four hours time difference between ET and GMT for a few weeks in March.

That means extra time in bed on weekend mornings and that, above all else, is the gift dedicated Premier League fans across the USA truly deserve.


Saturday 7 March 2020
7:30 a.m. ET: Liverpool v. Bournemouth
12:30 p.m. ET: Burnley v. Tottenham

Sunday 8 March 2020
10 a.m. ET: Chelsea v. Everton
12:30 p.m. ET: Man United v. Man City

Monday 9 March 2020
4 p.m. ET: Leicester v. Aston Villa

Saturday 14 March 2020
8:30 a.m. ET: Watford v. Leicester
1:30 p.m. ET: Aston Villa v. Chelsea

Sunday 15 March 2020
10 a.m. ET: West Ham v. Wolves
12:30 p.m. ET: Tottenham v. Man United

Monday 16 March 2020
4 p.m. ET: Everton v. Liverpool

Friday 20 March 2020
4 p.m. ET: Tottenham v. West Ham*

Saturday 21 March 2020
8:30 a.m. ET: Chelsea v. Man City*
1:30 p.m. ET: Liverpool v. Crystal Palace*

Sunday 22 March 2020
10 a.m. ET: Leicester v. Brighton*
12:30 p.m. ET: Southampton v. Arsenal*

*Matches subject to FA Cup participation