When he steps on to the pitch he once never wished to leave, Wayne Rooney will be met with a wall of hostility from a crowd that once adored him as a teenager. However, this time there will be no animosity from the dug-out.
The breakdown of Rooney's relationship with his manager at Everton, David Moyes, hastened his departure for Manchester United. It came to a head in the libel courts where Moyes was awarded an undisclosed sum for allegations in Rooney's autobiography that he leaked stories about the player to the Liverpool Echo. However, a peace of sorts has been restored.
"Wayne phoned me a year ago to apologise for his book, to say the things he had put in it were wrong and that he had made a mistake," said Moyes. "I had to give him a lot of credit for that. For me it showed his maturity and he thanked us for the help we had given him at Everton.
"The court case had been won anyway so it was over as far as I was concerned but I just said to him: 'No problem, that's fine. It just shows your maturity.' Now, he is the one who's sorting out the young players at Manchester United. Anyone who's stepping out of line, not doing it right, he is the one looking after them."
Moyes said he could understand why Rooney left Goodison in the summer of a European Championship he had dominated at the age of 18. "I think we weren't ready for Wayne when he came on the scene," he said. "I can understand his feelings at the time but we probably weren't ready to keep him. Are we better now? Yes, definitely. Wayne has never said it but he would say that Everton aren't Manchester United yet but they are aiming to be. And as far as I am concerned, I would welcome him back. Maybe at the end of Wayne's career he might want to come back and play for Everton again."
Now, however, he is performing for Manchester United with the kind of swagger not seen since Euro 2004, a tournament England might have won but for Rooney's broken foot. With the World Cup in South Africa in mind, Fabio Capello might have hoped Sir Alex Ferguson would rest his finest talent but the England manager is likely to wait in vain.
"He is a fit lad, he wants to play all the time anyway so it is not a question of what you would like to do," said Ferguson. "It is also a question of his desire to keep playing. I don't see any sign of that abating in any way. He is just very focused on playing."
And with 17 goals in as many games, there is no compelling reason to rest a footballer who last missed a Premier League match in October, when United ground out a rather unconvincing home victory against Bolton.
There is something of a bond between Ferguson and Moyes, which goes beyond managing Rooney. Growing up in Glasgow, Ferguson played with Moyes's father, at Drumchapel Amateurs, a boys' club so good that in one year it sent 30 graduates to Scottish senior football.
"I don't know enough about how he works as a manager," said Ferguson of Moyes. "But I do know him as a person. He is very humble, that boy. He is very intelligent and has had a good uprbringing and I knew his father from the same youth clubs when we were young. There is a good family background to the boy.
"The best job he has done is stabilising the club after he took over, building a foundation of young players and getting them all on long-term contracts. Sealing the future of a football club is the hardest thing to do and he has done it well."
Ferguson enjoys his visits to Goodison which he described as a "proper old-fashioned football ground with an electric atmosphere". But on Tuesday night, United came through far worse. "Nothing will compare with the noise of the first 15 minutes at the San Siro," he laughed. "I thought the world was going to fall on top of us."Reuse content