D.C. United made it official Tuesday afternoon: Wayne Rooney is the club’s next head coach, arriving back in MLS after England and Manchester United’s all-time leading scorer starred for the Black-and-Red from 2018-19 as a forward.
Rooney’s midseason arrival comes after D.C. United parted ways with former head coach Hernan Losada on April 20. The club’s since been led by interim coach Chad Ashton. Until Rooney receives his P-1 Visa, Ashton will remain in charge of the team.
Before coaching in MLS, Rooney spent a year-and-a-half leading Derby County in the English Championship. He helped the Rams stave off relegation to League One in 2020-21, then as a player-coach, but a 21-point deduction made avoiding a similar fate in 2021-22 too difficult despite solid results. He resigned as Derby County’s coach in late June as the English club goes through administration while moving from the second to the third tier.
“Wayne is a soccer legend and one of the most exciting and dynamic up-and-coming managers in our sport. He’s already proven in his young coaching career that he knows how to lead a group through adversity,” Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan, co-chairmen of D.C. United, said in a release.
“He has an understanding of our league and what it takes to be successful in Major League Soccer thanks to his two-year stay with us as a player. The passion he showed while wearing Black-and-Red electrified our city and our club and we are so excited to welcome him back as our head coach."
Rooney takes over a team that’s 13th in the Eastern Conference standings, accumulating 17 points (5W-10L-2D record) at the midway point of their 2022 season. D.C. United, alongside forward Taxi Fountas, have two Designated Player spots to potentially fill this summer during the Secondary Transfer Window (runs July 7 to Aug. 4).
In tackling the task before him, Rooney’s MLS experience could prove beneficial. He joined D.C. United in the summer of 2018 as Audi Field opened, steering in back-to-back Audi MLS Cup Playoffs appearances while captaining the club. D.C. United haven’t made the postseason since Rooney left earlier than expected due to family reasons.
“Wayne is a winner and a competitor. His work ethic and what he demands of himself and his players is second to none,” president of soccer operations Dave Kasper said in a release. “Wayne’s approach to the game and the style of soccer he wants to play fits within our philosophy and we believe he is the right person to lead our club moving forward.”
Rooney’s full coaching staff will be announced at a later date. His own debut on D.C. United’s sidelines awaits the visa process.