Doyle & Wiebe on Wayne Rooney's pending departure from DC United


Wayne Rooney is departing D.C. United ahead of schedule to return to England after the conclusion of the 2019 MLS season, the club announced Tuesday morning, citing the player’s need “to be closer to family.”

“With the consent of D.C. United, Rooney completed negotiations to become a player-coach for Derby County in the English Championship in 2020,” stated a club release.

Rooney has signed an 18-month contract with the Rams, who recently hired Dutch legend Phillip Cocu as their new manager to replace Frank Lampard after the former New York City FC star departed for Chelsea, effective Jan. 1. Though terms of the deal with Derby County were undisclosed, the release noted that Rooney will become a club ambassador for D.C.

“I remain fully focused on giving my all for the team for the rest of this season and repaying the support shown by the Black-and-Red faithful by hopefully delivering an MLS Cup to Audi Field,” Rooney said in a statement.

“My time in Major League Soccer is something I will always be proud of. The supporters in the Screaming Eagles, Barra Brava and District Ultras have made my time in America so enjoyable. While the decision to move home was a tough one, family is everything to us and we make this change to be closer to the ones we love back in England. The opportunity to go back home and start the next step of my career in coaching was the factor that made my mind up. I would like to thank everyone at D.C. United for the incredible support my family and I have received over my two seasons at the club.”

United, who were revitalized by Rooney’s midseason arrival coinciding with the opening of Audi Field a year ago, currently sit in fourth place in the MLS Eastern Conference with 36 points from 25 matches and a 9-7-9 record, but have won just one of their last seven matches dating back to late June. They return to action with a visit from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy on Sunday (7:30 pm ET | FS1 in US, TSN1/4 in Canada).

“After speaking to Wayne and understanding his difficult situation of being so far away from his family, we have accepted that this is the best decision for all parties,” said D.C. United Co-Chairmen Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien. “Our main focus now is the 2019 MLS season and ensuring we make a push towards the playoffs with the ultimate goal of bringing an MLS Cup back to the District. Wayne is an exceptional leader and one of the most iconic players to play the game so we look forward to his continued contributions to the team this season.”