Wayne Rooney set for sensational Everton return as chiefs draw up Rafa Benitez plan

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Wayne Rooney could be set to make a sensational return to Everton if the club decide to axe under-pressure boss Rafa Benitez. The Toffees have been struggling this season and find themselves down in 14th in the Premier League standings, following a dismal run of seven defeats in their last nine games.

The pressure is mounting on Benitez following a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace on Monday night, despite beating Arsenal in their previous match.

Majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri is understood to be standing by Benitez after making him his fifth managerial appointment over the summer, with Carlo Ancelotti leaving to rejoin Real Madrid in June.

But the British-Iranian owner is thought to have devised a contingency plan to approach Rooney, 36, about replacing Benitez in a bid to stop their slide towards the relegation zone.

According to The Sun, an ‘unofficial’ dialogue has been opened between the club and Rooney, who began his career with Everton as a teenage prodigy in 2002.

Benitez has been forced to cope with an adverse atmosphere since arriving at Goodison Park due to his links with Liverpool.

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The Spaniard managed their Merseyside rivals Liverpool from 2004 to 2010 and has since been in charge of Chelsea and Newcastle United as well.

But Everton fans were furious at the club’s apparent disregard of Benitez’s history at Anfield and protested against the appointment, with relations strained ever since.

Moshiri has come under-fire from a large section of the club’s fans who opposed hiring the 61-year-old, although strong results early in the season silenced his critics.

But injuries to key players have affected the team’s form on the pitch and Benitez has struggled to turn things around after a run of six straight defeats.

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That included a humiliating 4-1 home defeat to Liverpool in the Merseyside derby, which only strengthened calls for the Spaniard to be sacked.

It is stated in the report that Rooney would be tempted by a return to his roots for a third spell.

He returned for one season in 2017 as a player after leaving Manchester United, the club where he became a legend and their all-time top goalscorer on 253 goals in 559 appearances.

Rooney then headed to the United States with DC United and returned to England as a player-coach at Derby, before taking over as manager from Philip Cocu.

The former England international has reiterated his desire to remain in the dugout at Pride Park despite the club’s precarious situation.

The Rams were plunged into administration back in August and are 17 points from safety at the foot of the Championship after they were deducted 21 points by the EFL.

But their form without the deduction would put them just outside the relegation zone — and Rooney believes he and his players can pull off a miracle.

“We have to be realistic,” he said. “It’s a small chance [of survival], but for as long as there’s an opportunity, we will be giving it a try.

“We’re not just going to come into training for the sake of it and we will continue to fight on the pitch to get as many points as we can.

“There’s a chance we can perform a miracle, which I feel it would be if we stay up.

“I have never doubted the players in terms of character, attitude and energy and, when we are on it, we can compete with any team in this league.”

Benitez’s fate could be sealed on Thursday evening when he takes his depleted Everton side to title contenders Chelsea, with Andros Townsend, Seamus Coleman and Richarlison all ruled out with injury.

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