Wayne Rooney deepens Moyes gloom and reminds of his talent with wonder goal
LIVERPOOL -- Wayne Rooney marked the return of David Moyes and the grand entrance of Sam Allardyce with the first hat trick of his Everton career... and to think it all began with a missed penalty.
Rooney's night in the 4-0 win against West Ham ended with a standing ovation. The 32-year-old's stunning second-half goal, struck from inside his own half, capped an incredible performance which inspired Everton to a crucial victory and hands Allardyce the perfect springboard from which to launch a successful climb away from relegation trouble.
Had the former England captain been unable to head home from the rebound after Joe Hart had saved his 16th minute penalty, Rooney may have ended up given Moyes a helping hand in his own battle to breathe some life into West Ham in his third game in charge.
But Rooney stuck his header in the back of the net and then scored again on 28 minutes before finishing off his first Premier League hat trick since September 2011 -- from inside his own half -- to compound Moyes's misery and keep West Ham stranded in the bottom three.
"I hit it as well I've ever hit a football," Rooney said. "To make it my third goal in my first hat trick for Everton makes it very special."
Even Moyes, who was on the receiving end, could not hide his admiration of Rooney's goal.
"Technical ability is what Wayne has got," Moyes said. "Very few players could have done that, get the timing and accuracy right. It was a terrific goal. It's what Wayne can do. He's always got goals in him and he has the knack of being in the right place to score goals."
Moyes, of course, launched Rooney's career during his spell as Everton manager, handing him the chance to impress as a 16-year-old.
Rooney never looked back, going on to become the all-time leading goal scorer for England and Manchester United, but there is no room for sentiment when you are locked in a battle for Premier League survival and as his hat trick goal hit the back of the West Ham net, he will not have given a second thought to the damage it will have inflicted on his old manager.
Moyes was in charge of Everton on the day that Rooney announced himself to the world with his audacious goal against Arsenal at Goodison Park in October 2002.
That the Everton No. 10 is still capable of producing such moments of audacity, 15 years later, is a testament to his natural ability and instinct for the spectacular. But his return to Everton this season hasn't always been a tale of joy and wonder.
Rooney was dropped to the bench for the weekend defeat at Southampton, with his impressive start to the campaign seemingly having fizzled out before summer turned into autumn.
With Allardyce due to take charge formally after the game -- caretaker-manager David Unsworth picked the team -- Rooney's future at Goodison was already under the microscope, despite him captaining England during Allardyce's one game in charge of the national team last year.
But Rooney has always had a habit of proving his doubters wrong and even now, with the years beginning to take their toll, he has moved the debate elsewhere by providing renewed evidence of his ability to make an impact at the top level.
It was not just his goals. Playing at left-back one minute, central midfield the next and then moving forward to support striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Rooney led by example and urged his teammates on at the same time as calling for more volume from the crowd by waving his arms in encouragement.
Allardyce, sitting alongside majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri in the directors' box, could not fail to be impressed.
He will have arrived at Goodison knowing that Rooney could become a thorny issue. The club's biggest name and best-paid player, the one with the greatest pedigree, would be a difficult one to shift if Allardyce felt he was not delivering the goods, but if this performance is any gauge, Rooney will remain a central figure under the new manager.
How Moyes could do with a player of Rooney's desire and commitment, never mind his quality, at West Ham. Only Manuel Lanzini and Arthur Masuaku could walk off the pitch at the end with any kind of credit in a performance which led some West Ham fans to chant, "You're not fit to wear the shirt."
West Ham were awful, with Moyes saying afterwards: "I could put my name to the second-half performance, but I wouldn't put my name to the way we played in the first-half."
Three games into his reign, West Ham have picked up just one point and now face Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in their next three games.
Relegated with Sunderland last season, Moyes went into this game with it being the 39th consecutive matchday in which he was in charge of a team in the bottom three. Only John Gorman, who managed Swindon Town in 1993-94, has a longer run (40), but Moyes will equal that at City on Sunday.
Not even the most optimistic West Ham fan would expect Moyes to avoid making it 41 or even 42 games in the bottom three, but nobody said it was going to be easy for the former Everton boss.
It was always going to be tough, but Rooney has now made it much more difficult for him.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_