Neil Humphreys: Hail the Rooney renaissance
Everton scorer deserves chance to silence critics
Wayne Rooney can't run. So he can't hide. He can't score. So he can't stay.
Each criticism repeats like a broken record. So he breaks records instead.
When the Everton striker scored his 200th English Premier League goal against Manchester City yesterday morning (Singapore time), he cocked his ear, basking in the silence of an embarrassed Etihad Stadium.
Rooney would've been justified in giving City supporters - and perhaps the game itself - the middle finger. He's earned the right to revel in his own Renaissance.
The boy in the Everton pyjamas has gone home and returned the ball to the man.
He's loving football once again and football should love him back.
For almost a decade, Rooney has played under a question mark, with critics asking "what if" instead of acknowledging the less romantic reality.
If he didn't entirely reach the potential of that brutish man-child at Euro 2004, he did become only the second footballer in the EPL era to reach a double century.
I am focusing on Everton. I am sure I will speak to Gareth Southgate over the next few days and we will see what happens.Wayne Rooney, on his chances of an England recall
Rooney will not reach Shearer's stupendous tally of 260, but that misses the point entirely. No one else is likely to reach Rooney's milestone either.
In a grubby industry where footballers treat clubs as interchangeable carriages on a gravy train, the Scouser took a pay-cut to return to his boyhood club.
That's no serious hardship for a footballer paid around £300,000 (S$524,000) a week at Manchester United, but in an unpalatable climate where Diego Costa refuses to train with champions and title winners Chelsea, Rooney deserves credit.
More importantly, he deserves respect.
Even now, the coverage of his extraordinary achievement at the Etihad seems muted, as the focus shifts towards two red cards and another two dreadful examples of simulation/cheating.
Rooney reached 200 goals in an illustrious career, but he has also scored twice in two games. He covered 10.7km in 89 minutes, before he was substituted. He ran further than any other Everton player.
He netted against a club that spent more than £220 million in pre-season and enjoyed reminding City supporters of his fine scoring record.
Of those 200 goals, nine were knocked in against City, five of them at City's ground.
For Rooney, City's shaky home is an open invitation to build on his legacy.
What got lost a little in the Romelu Lukaku hoopla and Rooney's homecoming was the thought process of the Everton manager.
Ronald Koeman is not a slave to sentimentality, quite the opposite.
A hard-headed pragmatist, he did a stocktake of Everton's youth ranks and saw the eager apprentice of Dominic Calvert-Lewin in need of a master's guidance.
Like a contender taking life lessons from a wise, wrinkled pugilist on celluloid, Calvert-Lewin appeared inspired alongside Rooney.
The rangy, leggy 20-year-old dovetailed beautifully with the rugged, squat 31-year-old. Apart from setting up Rooney for his historic finish, Calvert-Lewin was a dizzying blur of mazy dribbles, cut-backs and layoffs.
Koeman will struggle to resist the temptation to dip into the Lukaku fund to buy an overpriced headliner, but the Dutch graduate of Barcelona's school of coaching knows a raw gem when he sees one.
And he's got Rooney to provide the spit and polish. That's why he signed him.
Nostalgia and a cute narrative had nothing to do with it.
Ironically, it takes a foreign, Barcelona-trained student of the game to recognise Rooney's attributes.
Koeman sees Rooney the striker for what he currently is, an industrious, intelligent competitor who has only ever wanted to play football.
For too long, the English have embarrassingly obsessed over what Rooney isn't. Rooney never bent the camera lens like Beckham. He was never as erudite as Lampard, or as cherubic as Owen, or as engaging as Ferdinand, or as swashbuckling as Gerrard.
He was simply the best English centre forward of his generation. For some, that was not enough. For Koeman, it'll do nicely for the transitional Toffees.
Other managers would arguably pigeonhole Everton's leading pair at the Etihad.
Rooney belongs in the past. Calvert-Lewin is one for the future.
But Koeman sees his master and apprentice as integral members of the here and now.
Manchester United may not lament Rooney's departure. But their loss is certainly Everton's gain.
He's the last man standing from that dim and distant golden generation, in open defiance of his body clock.
There's always poetry to be found in watching an athlete rage against the dying of the light. But watching Rooney rage against his critics promises to be much more fun.