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

After news surfaced Tuesday that D.C. United star Wayne Rooney would join Derby County as a player-coach come 2020, questions surfaced as to what motivated the seemingly-abrupt decision.

In an interview with the Black-and-Red’s website, the Designated Player clarified the shift in plans.

“... [It] was important to start that transition for the next stage of my career, which I’ve always showed that desire of that’s what I want to do,” Rooney said. “But also for my family and myself to be back in England around our extended family and friends was part of the reason also. So that opportunity came about, and I felt it was the right opportunity for me at this time.”

Given the timing, Rooney has nine regular-season matches left with D.C., and then a possible playoff run. But that’s not locked up yet, as the team from our nation’s capital has won just twice since mid-May.

But Rooney, 33, is determined to make another push for MLS Cup. In 2018, after joining from Premier League side Everton, Rooney helped spark a surge up the standings that coincided with the opening of Audi Field. It eventually ended in a first-round playoff exit to Eastern Conference foe Columbus Crew SC.

“Obviously the last few games haven’t been good enough, but we’re in a position where we can still rise up the table and even have a shot at finishing first in the Eastern Conference,” Rooney said. “We have to believe in ourselves. We have to show confidence that we can do that. And if we do that, at our best we know we’re capable of beating anyone.”

Much of that 2018 magic was sparked by Rooney’s partnership with Argentine midfield Luciano Acosta, whose own contract situation remains in flux. 

Their collective production has fizzled in 2019 as Acosta has regressed to the mean (five goals, two assists), though Rooney has remained crucial. The English forward has 11 goals and seven assists in 22 matches, leading the group both on and off the field.

All that ties into Rooney’s focus and commitment for his remaining time in MLS.

GOAL: Wayne Rooney scores from beyond the midfield stripe

“You know, legacies come from winning trophies,” the captain said. “You can say this player was a good player or he’s done this, but legacies come from winning titles, it’s what you leave behind, it’s a history. Obviously in my situation, I have a few months to try and do that. 

“But for the team, the team will move on and the team will have a lot of chances in the next few years with the owners and what they’re trying to build, the team will move on and I’m sure they will create their history. But in my situation, I’ve got a few months to try and do that.”

Rooney added that his relationship with D.C. will remain even when he becomes a Derby County player-coach. A major driver there is his commitment to the fanbase and, ideally, a sending-off party that concludes with being the last team standing in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup playoffs.

“I hope [the fans] can get behind the team, because we will need them to push for the playoffs,” Rooney said. “If they do that, if they have faith in us, I’m sure we’ll repay them certainly with a playoff spot and hopefully with a title at the end of the year."