Wayne Rooney: There's "no chance" DC United finish bottom of MLS again

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney, entering his first full season as D.C. United head coach, conveyed a crystal-clear message to his new-look squad as preseason camp begins.

“There's no chance I'm finishing bottom of that league again, there's no chance,” Rooney said in a behind-the-scenes video that D.C. shared on their official channels. “I've been in the game a long time and it hurts. When you look at that league table and you're at the bottom, it hurts.

“We need to push, and you can say what do you want to push for? I want to be great. I want to be remembered. I want to be successful.”

Last July, the Englishman took over a squad in some degree of disarray after the early-season dismissal of now-CF Montréal manager Hernan Losada. They couldn’t climb out of the Eastern Conference basement and finished last in MLS overall by a seven-point margin (27 points; 0.79 ppg).

The blame for 2022’s struggles hardly falls on Rooney’s shoulders, though there’s certainly pressure to make 2023 a different story. That journey formally begins with a Matchday 1 home clash vs. Toronto FC on Feb. 25 (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

“There's a lot of history at this club, it's the most successful in MLS,” Rooney said of the four-time league champions, who he played for from 2018-19.

“We need to get it back to that, and we can. I think we will. But it's on you to be able to do that and believe in yourselves. It's the most important thing, believe in yourself as an individual. Believe in your teammates, believe in yourselves as a group and you can do that.”

To ignite the process, Rooney and D.C.’s front office have revamped the squad across the last two transfer windows. Last summer they brought in striker Christian Benteke and midfielder Victor Pálsson, most notably, and this winter they’ve reshaped essentially the entire defense with MLS-proven veterans. They also just added midfielder Mateusz Klich as a third Designated Player.

“We've brought a lot of experience in, which we needed, players who know the league,” said the all-time leading scorer for both England and Manchester United. “We've brought players from different leagues. We're still looking for more players. We're still trying to improve.”

For Rooney, a huge part of D.C. United’s potential turnaround will come from day-to-day habits.

“The mentality every single day has to be right,” Rooney said. “That belief every single day has to be right. Because if it's not, might as well go home now. That mentality has to be at a high level for us to perform, to perform every week.”

Check out Rooney’s full speech below: