And so it begins
‘There was a sell-out crowd, imbued by the feelgood factor that has swept Goodison Park over the course of a dramatic summer, but this homecoming gig quickly became a familiar slog for Wayne Rooney. His second coming as an Everton player began with a win, but it also threw up more questions than answers about how he will fit into Ronald Koeman’s new-look team’ – Oliver Kay, The Times.

All the good summer PR in the world can’t change the same old issue.

Keeping up appearances
Don’t think that Rooney’s goodwill has completely evaporated, however. Kay may write in The Times that Rooney’s ‘homecoming gig quickly became a familiar slog’, Ken Lawrence in The Sun may describe Rooney as ‘huffing and puffing’ and Simon Hughes for the Telegraph say that ‘the questions about his physical condition are yet to be answered’, but Rooney has a loyal friend in the Daily Mirror’s David Maddock.

‘They so nearly frustrated Rooney, who had an impressive game, showing all his experience and wiles in leading the line in such a robust, old-fashioned style,’ Maddock writes. ‘He had chances, and looked far sharper than most critics predicted… Most influential player by a distance, held ball brilliantly all night.’

If only nobody else had watched the game, David.

On the same page
Maddock might want to have a word with his Daily Mirror colleague Liam Prenderville, who was tasked with a ‘Wayne Rooney watch’:

‘There was to be no fairytale though as a rusty Rooney faded as the game went on. It was no surprise given his lack of game time last season and he will be well aware his game is short in some areas.’

‘There were unsurprising signs of rustiness though, with Rooney losing possession in midfield moments later before Takac dragged his shot wide. He then wasted a great chance on the half hour mark, losing his footing inside the six-yard box after fine work from Calvert-Lewin.

‘Rooney’s fortunes didn’t improve too much after the break as he struggled for service.’

What about that robust, old-fashioned style and brilliant hold-up play? Just talk to each other, guys.

Make your mind up
Elsewhere the Daily Mirror, Andy Dunn uses the main section of his column to bemoan Chelsea spending money on new players rather than improving and developing what they have:

‘Players can improve season-on-season, moving their own games up a level. Chelsea cannot wait for that to happen with their young talent, it seems.

‘Bakayoko, undoubtedly, is better than the departed Nathaniel Chalobah, but development comes with the sort of experience the French players, in particular, are given at a relatively early age. Again, Chelsea cannot wait.

‘But there has to come a time when, rather than expecting their clubs just to spend fortunes on players in order to compete for titles,fans see the intangible success, feel the unquantifiable happiness, in producing homegrown players for the first team. It should be a fundamental part of what a great football club is all about. If it is not, that is a “tragedy”.’

All reasonably fair comment, Mediawatch would say.

Two inches to the left of that column is another opinion piece, also by Andy Dunn:

‘One of the surprises of the window has been Manchester United’s relative inactivity. Yes, they have splashed out £75m on Romelu Lukaku but they have, at least for now, lost a proven goalscorer in Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

‘They needed a bit more quality in central defence and recruited Victor Lindelof, who looks as though he might take some time to settle in. That’s it, so far.

‘With the bookmakers, United are a measly 3/1. They are third favourites, ahead of Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool. That can only be based on reputation, history and Jose’s CV because he has done nothing in the window yet to suggest it won’t be another tough campaign coming up.’

Digging one team out for spending on new players and another team for not spending enough on new players, on the same page. Fine work.

Bale out
Gareth Bale may well join Manchester United. Mediawatch is highly doubtful that he will, but it may happen.

However, to translate the latest quotes from Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane as ‘boosting Manchester United’s hopes’ or offering ‘huge encouragement’, as a number of Friday’s papers do, is more than a little one-eyed.

Here is what Zidane said, in an interview with Real Madrid’s official website:

“Let’s hope that all of the members of the ‘BBC’ stay here. I want the ‘BBC’ to stay put, it’s the same for all of the players who are here. That said, up until Aug. 31 anything can happen.”

So not just Bale, then? Zidane also said that Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo could leave, no? Ronaldo to Arsenal it is; start the rumour wagon.

For what it’s worth, Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett has described it as a “ridiculous, stupid story”, while Jose Mourinho said that Bale has not been a Manchester United target this summer and Bale has said that he wants to stay in Madrid.

Huge ‘boost’, though.

League of nations
On Tuesday, The Sun’s back page splash was an exclusive from Mike McGrath on Antonio Conte’s spending plans. The headline was ‘Stam4d Bridge’, but the story actually contained the names of five players that Conte wanted: Virgil van Dijk, Alex Sandro, Antonio Candreva, Fernando Llorente and Tom Davies. You will notice that only one of those is English.

Seventy-two hours later, and McGrath has another back page exclusive for The Sun. ‘Ant’s full English’, the headline reads.

‘ANTONIO CONTE is planning a £50million double swoop for England stars Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain,’ McGrath writes.

‘The Chelsea boss wants to beef up the number of “home-grown” players as teams can have only 17 foreigners in their 25-man squad. Last season Chelsea filled six of their eight “homegrown” slots but Asmir Begovic, John Terry and Nathaniel Chalobah have left.’

All of that sounds perfectly reasonable, although we’re doubtful of Chelsea signing either of those two players.

However, it does raise the question of why less than three days ago neither of those two players were on Conte’s supposed wanted list that McGrath produced? Or did Conte  think Van Dijk and Candreva were English?

Here’s Dean Saunders on Talksport on the subject of Philippe Coutinho. It’s a heady combination, we’re sure you’ll agree:

“For £100m, he’s replaceable. You could sign Isco for £30m. He’s not going to get a game at Real Madrid. Juan Mata, Sigurdsson. There’s players you can sign to replace Coutinho.”

Now Saunders might have done his research. He might have spoke to insiders at Real Madrid, who have informed him that Isco is available at a ludicrously low fee. But we doubt it.

For the record, the Isco who “isn’t going to get a game” played 40 times for Real Madrid last season.

Laboured intro of the day
‘There are greater challenges ahead for Everton and Wayne Rooney than MFK Ruzomberok, a Slovakian team that finished third in their domestic league last season; a team with three international caps between the players in its starting XI; a team, indeed, featuring Peter and Jan Maslo beside each other in defence, brothers with a surname that translates into English as butter. It proved to be a defence that Everton and Rooney were just about able to slide a knife through’ – Simon Hughes, Daily Telegraph.

Laboured, but still very enjoyable.

Recommended reading of the day
Jake Walerius says that numbers aren’t the problem (some people are)

Daniel Storey remembers Wayne Rooney vs Fenerbahce.

Rangers Report on statistical trends in goalkeepers.