Wayne Rooney speaks out, but that's no longer Man United's problem
Romelu Lukaku played in a Manchester United shirt for the first time on Saturday evening when his new club beat LA Galaxy 5-2 in a preseason friendly.
In Lukaku, United have a striker who has averaged more than 20 goals a season over the past three campaigns. Like Wayne Rooney before him, he has outgrown Everton and made a move to a team that has a better chance of offering him silverware.
After Lukaku followed Rooney's footsteps from Merseyside to Manchester, the former United captain was asked whether he has any advice for United's new No. 9.
"There are standards that you have to keep when you are at Manchester United," he said. "Over the last few years, it was down to me and Michael Carrick to keep the new players maintaining those standards. That became more difficult over the last few years, with some of the players who joined the club. There are traditions at United that have to be maintained. It's become harder, but that's not my problem anymore. I'm just ecstatic to be back at Everton."
For Rooney to talk in such a way is quite rich, given his own decline. At his best, he was an incredible footballer and United's most important player. His determination and passion dragged the team through games and even seasons. He would cover every blade of grass, throw himself into any challenge, while also being able to create and score crucial goals.
But as far back as 2012-13, Sir Alex Ferguson's final season, Rooney found himself on the bench more often. His decline had begun, and like Ferguson had been able to do so many times before, he identified it early and was ready to let him leave. The appointment of David Moyes, who oversaw the signing of a massive contract instead of allowing the striker to move on, arguably extended Rooney's Old Trafford stay for longer than it should have gone.
It was almost uncomfortable watching Rooney at times last season, as he was outrun by slow defenders, saw the ball clumsily bouncing off his shins too often, and was unable to convert even the simplest of chances.
Jose Mourinho played the situation perfectly. Instead of making the bold move of dropping Rooney straight away, he played Rooney every week, allowing everyone to see how far off the pace he was. That meant there were no complaints when the decision was eventually made to relegate him from the starting lineup.
Rooney didn't kick up a fuss, for which he has received credit, but had to evaluate his future and had plenty of thinking time when warming the bench. Last summer, Rooney had claimed that he wanted to extend his contract and retire at United. Surplus to requirements, he had to find somewhere else prepared to have him.
While China was an option, luckily for Rooney there was interest in bringing him back to Everton from Ronald Koeman. The return has resembled something akin to a football version of the story of the Prodigal Son, with Everton fans forgetting the times he goaded them by kissing United's badge and celebrating goals in front of them.
Rooney revealed he's been wearing Everton pyjamas for the past 13 years, and there's no denying that he's a fan of the club at heart. But supporters should be mindful of getting too carried away: The only reason he is back at Goodison Park is because he is no longer good enough for United. He wouldn't have given Everton a second thought had Mourinho offered him a contract extension.
The 31-year-old has made the best of a difficult situation, and while he will be delighted that his children get to see him playing in an Everton shirt, it's a choice he made when his options were fairly limited; Premier League clubs were hardly queuing up to sign him.
One day, United fans will be able to remember the club's record goalscorer fondly, reflecting back on the occasions when he tore the opposition apart, looked as though he was prepared to run through brick walls for the team and played a vital role in adding silverware to the bulging trophy cabinet.
But making sly digs about this current United squad isn't the way to curry favour with the supporters who still sang his name despite atrocious displays on the pitch. If standards have slipped at Old Trafford, Rooney should look to himself first before pointing the finger elsewhere.
"That's not my problem anymore," the former captain said, but many United fans will agree with that sentiment in relation to Rooney himself.
Having to accommodate and get behind a player who is well past his best is no longer their concern, and perhaps Koeman will come to the same realisation as Ferguson and Mourinho.
Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.