Rooney had been a player-coach for The Rams since leaving D.C. United after the 2019 MLS season, and recently was in a caretaker role after previous manager Phillip Cocu departed in November.
“When I first arrived back in the United Kingdom I was completely blown away by the potential of Derby County Football Club,” Rooney, 35, said in a club release. “The stadium, training ground, the quality of the playing staff and the young players coming through and of course the fan base that has remained loyal and supportive. Despite other offers, I knew instinctively Derby County was the place for me.”
Rooney, the all-time leading goalscorer for England’s national team and Manchester United, came to D.C. United during the 2018 season, coinciding with the club debuting at Audi Field. He finished with 23 goals and 15 assists in 48 games (45 starts) with the Black-and-Red, forming a formidable partnership with Luciano Acosta at the capital city club.
While the move was scrutinized upon Rooney’s arrival, he quickly showed how committed he was to the project in D.C. That surfaced most during "The Tackle" (seen below), a memorable sequence during D.C.’s August 2018 home match against Orlando City SC.
The star forward tracked back, pulled off an incredible slide tackle and then launched a long, driven cross that Acosta headed home – all in stoppage time. That quickly entered Black-and-Red lore, inducing goosebumps every time it gets revisited.
Watch: "The Tackle"
Rooney’s MLS tenure could have been longer, of course, but he returned to his home country and started his next chapter. He's closed a near-two-decade playing career that began in 2002 when Rooney made his Everton debut as a 16-year-old.
An all-time great in England, Rooney’s path bears a striking resemblance to former New York City FC midfielder Frank Lampard. Lampard, of course, began his managerial career at Derby County in 2018 before taking the Chelsea gig. Will we also see Rooney managing in the Premier League one day? We certainly wouldn’t count it out.