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Martinez quizzed over possible Everton return for Wayne Rooney

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Ever since he pulled on the royal blue shirt for Duncan Ferguson's testimonial on August, the prospect of Wayne Rooney returning to Goodison Park has suddenly become more real.

The gaping wounds caused by his defection to Manchester United in 2004 have slowly healed over the ensuing years, culminating in a rapturous reception for the England striker when he played for the Toffees against Villarreal two months ago.

Rooney's late cameo against the Spanish side set Evertonian imaginations racing, though with it came pangs of regret at what might have been had Rooney not left the club so early in his career.

However, it did feel like a cathartic moment. It seemed to signal that all parties were ready to settle their differences, move on and clear a path towards a possible return.

Those rumours have been fuelled by Rooney's terrible start to the season in a United shirt, with the 29-year-old having scored just one league goal all season.

The arrival of Anthony Martial has only served to put Rooney's decline in sharp focus, the original wonderkid may now have met his successor.

Rooney's diminishing effectiveness has inevitably lead to questions about his future as a United player and whether any exit would send him on a path back to Merseyside - which many sections of the media feel makes perfect sense.

Merseyside is where he will be on Saturday, still in a United shirt of course, but that didn't stop Roberto Martinez being asked about whether a deal could be done in the future.

Martinez said:

"I don't know what testimonials we have coming up but at the moment we all know he is the captain and represents Man United.

"But in the same way he came through the ranks at Everton and represents and inspiration and dream for any youngster that plays in our academy so you can understand that link, but that is as far as it goes."

Calmly batted away, as expected, by Martinez but the fact the question is even being asked shows it is not as far fetched as it was a few years ago.

A lot has to happen for any move to become a reality of course. Rooney's £300,000 a week wages is slightly out of Everton's reach for starters. And they won't want to sign a player based on nostalgia alone if he isn't going to be of real benefit on the pitch.

But the lure of returning to where is all began and maybe making up for his premature departure 11 years ago may prompt Rooney to take a pay-cut and reinvigorate him for the final few years of his career. United too may be willing to cut their losses should those wages develop into a millstone around their necks.

All speculation of course but the rumours are out there and I suspect will only increase in the coming months and years.