Wayne Rooney takes over at DC United and denies move is ‘backward step’

Wayne Rooney has been announced as the new head coach of DC United, and dismissed suggestions that returning to his former Major League Soccer side represents a “backward step” in his managerial career.

Rooney also revealed there had been “a few other clubs, both in England and in Europe, who got in touch” following his exit from Derby, but that he had been planning to “take a bit of a break” before the DC United opportunity came up.

The former Manchester United and Everton striker is still awaiting completion of a visa application before formally taking up his new role back in Washington, where he enjoyed a two-year playing spell. Rooney has made a quick return to coaching after leaving Derby County last month.

“I’ve seen a few articles, certainly back in England, on this [being] possibly a backward step in my managerial career. I really found that a bit disrespectful to this league,” Rooney said at a press conference broadcast on the MLS team’s YouTube channel.

“I think as a player, playing in the main [part] of my career at the top level, you can really choose which club you want to go to,” Rooney added. “As a manager I’m at the beginning of that journey. I’m at a point where I have to put the work in.”

The 36-year-old also highlighted his “connection” with the club from the US capital and added: “There isn’t another MLS team I would have gone to.” Rooney joined DC United in June 2018 as a designated player and went on to make 48 appearances, scoring 23 goals and getting 15 assists.

Rooney described the move as an “exciting challenge” and “something I feel can develop me as a coach”, adding that his family will remain in England for the time being.

“Of course, I’m an ambitious person, I want to manage at the top level and this is part of that process, in terms of coming here, trying to develop this club, trying to get success here, but also develop myself as a manager.”

The DC United co-chairmen, Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan, described Rooney as “one of the most exciting and dynamic up-and-coming managers in our sport.” The pair, who are also co-owners of Swansea City, added that Rooney has “already proven in his young coaching career that he knows how to lead a group through adversity.”

Rooney faces a rebuilding task at a franchise that were dominant in the league’s early years, winning four MLS Cups between 19986 and 2004. DC United are currently second-bottom of the Eastern Conference after Friday’s 7-0 defeat to Philadelphia.

“The team need to improve and I really feel with my capabilities of developing players, young players, we can get this club back to successful ways again,” Rooney added.

The former England captain left Derby shortly before the League One club were taken over by the local property developer, David Clowes. Rooney spent 17 turbulent months in charge at Pride Park, with Derby relegated to English football’s third tier and incurring a 21-point deduction after going into administration.