It was as if 13 years had passed in a blink; Wayne Rooney scoring brilliantly in front of the Park End, making you marvel at his freakish physical and technical capacities.
This, of course, was a soon-to-be 32-year-old rather than a teenager crafting magic for Everton.
It has been said that his decline has been dramatic, that aside from leadership and status his homecoming is perhaps a sentimental choice.
Yet his winning goal here, the eighth of his career on the opening day of a Premier League season – a record only Alan Shearer and Frank Lampard can match – suggested he still has something to offer, especially when games are as tight as this one.
There was still much to do when Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s cross left Rooney with a clear sight of goal because Jack Butland’s positioning was good.
Rooney’s header, though, was sent past him with the conviction of a professional who has been in this position many times. Rooney surely strained every sinew in his neck to find trajectory and power to beat Butland and ultimately win Everton the game.
Rooney’s return and Ronald Koeman’s business in the transfer market has brought a new confidence to Goodison Park. Prior to kick off, the banner unfurled across the lower bleachers of the Gwladys Street said, ‘Royal Blue Mersey,’ and it seemed a sort of declaration that Everton are back as a serious force, reclaiming local parts as their own.
Until Rooney’s intervention, though, there had been nothing to to get excited about. Much of the first half was spent attempting to decipher the thought behind Everton’s tactical strategy; one which involved at least three defenders at all times but occasionally five depending on the position of Calvert-Lewin, who seemingly was not asked to track back at all.
Leighton Baines had the left side of the pitch to himself with no midfielders in front of him and this seemed an odd decision by Koeman considering Mame Briam Diouf was playing as a wing-back for Stoke and Diouf – usually a striker – is not known for his defensive capabilities.
Everton were lopsided and Stoke’s players appeared just as uncomfortable with their instructions but it was Koeman’s plan that came off. When Rooney’s opener arrived in first half injury time after 45 minutes of one-paced football from both sides, the creator was indeed Calvert-Lewin.
Everton’s lead must not have convinced Koeman that his formation was worth persevering with because at the start of the second half, the shape of his attack was transformed, with Calvert-Lewin through the centre, Davy Klaassen supporting him from deep, then Rooney and Sandro Ramírez on the wings.
Everton could have scored again on a couple of occasions but they did not thanks to the reflexes of Butland. Meanwhile, it proved to be a very uninspiring afternoon for Stoke. For Butland, it could be a busy season.
Everton: (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Keane, Williams (Martina h-t), Jagielka, Baines; Gana, Schneiderlin; Calvert-Lewin, Rooney, Klaassen (Davies 60); Sandro (Mirallas 77). Subs not used: Stekelenburg, Besic, Holgate, Lookman.
Stoke (3-4-3): Butland; Zouma, Shawcross, Cameron; Diouf, Fletcher, Allen, Pieters; Shaqiri, Berahino (Crouch 71), Bojan (Choupo-Moting 71). Subs not used: Grant, Johnson, Tymon, Adam, Ramadan.