Wayne Rooney explains DC United exit & what’s next


Wayne Rooney’s tenure as D.C. United head coach has officially ended.

Saturday evening, in the immediate aftermath of being eliminated from the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, D.C. announced the two parties have mutually parted ways.

“I think it’s just the right time,” Rooney told reporters following a 2-0, season-finale victory over New York City FC at Audi Field. “I’ve done everything I can to try and get the club into the playoffs. It’s not been a single thing which has happened. It’s about timing in your career. I’ve really enjoyed my time here. I’ve had a lot of great help from the owners. … I just feel like it’s the right time for me to back to England, first to obviously see my family. I haven’t seen them for a long time.

“And then, what lies ahead? Whether opportunities come up? I’ve seen a lot of reports in the media. I don’t have anything lined up. I’m going back there to see my family. If something comes up in October, November, of course I’ll look at it."

England approach

In his last press conference as D.C. United boss, the Manchester United and England national team legend revealed he had an opportunity to leave the club earlier this season – but he turned the offer down to see out the 2023 campaign with the Black-and-Red.

“I got offered a job close to my home in England four weeks ago," said Rooney. "I turned that down because I wanted to push and do everything I can to make the playoffs here. So, I wanted to do everything right to try and make playoffs and now we can’t. I think it’s the right time obviously for the players to know first, more importantly, and then yourselves [the media]. But as I said, I wish everyone here luck and success in the future, and I’m grateful.”

The District

It's no secret Rooney has built a special bond with D.C.

He joined the club as head coach in July 2022, returning after a goals-filled playing stint from 2018-19. Before taking over the MLS original club, he had a two-year stint in charge of English Championship side Derby County.

“Of course, D.C. United has got a huge place in my heart,” said Rooney. "I’ve been here twice. If I didn’t feel like I could help the club, I wouldn’t have come back here. I had a great time here as a player. I’ve had a different time as a coach, but also, a time I’ve really enjoyed trying to help this club move forward. I think the club has moved forward from where it was last season. Even though the goal was to make the playoffs, I think it has made strides forward … Of course, it’s a sad time, but it’s a time which I think is right.”

In Rooney’s only full season in charge, the club went 10W-14L-10D (40 points) after finishing bottom of the overall league table in 2022, limping to a 7W-21L-6D record (27 points) that earned them a Wooden Spoon.

“My point of view is that I’ve enjoyed my time here,” noted Rooney. “I think it’s helped me, will help me a lot moving forward as a coach. I just want to say on record to everyone involved – the club, staff, players – I’m grateful. I wish them nothing but success in the future.”

Enough support?

During Rooney's tenure, he had a pulse on player recruitment and helped oversee significant roster turnover from 2022-23. Key additions included striker Christian Benteke and midfielder Mateusz Klich, who arrived after respectively playing for Crystal Palace and Leeds United in the Premier League. Rooney also trusted young homegrowns and integrated a bevy of MLS veterans.

Was it all enough?

“I think as a head coach, you always want more," said Rooney. "That’s normal. If you ask any head coach that, of course, you always want more. As I’ve said, I’m grateful. I’ve got some really good players in. The owners backed me with that. Sometimes, you don’t always get what you want, but the players we got in I think were good players. We all fought right till the end.”

Mixed emotions

Rooney, who made no secret of his desire to one day manage at the highest levels in England, knows coaches don't stick around forever. But he'll always root for D.C. United to succeed.

"I’ve enjoyed it – ups, downs," said Rooney. "I just feel the time was right for me to move on and then refocus myself and be ready and wait for opportunities which hopefully may come up in the future, I don’t know. I think it’s probably best for me and the club they go get a new head coach.

" … I didn’t want this to dwell on between me and [ownership]. Obviously, he appoints a new head coach [and I wanted to] give him the time to bring his players in for next season.”