ORLANDO, Fla. – Wayne Rooney could be forgiven for being a bit subdued as he stepped in front of a throng of media in the southeast corner of the pitch at Exploria Stadium Tuesday.
The English superstar had risen before the crack of dawn to catch a flight south from Washington, D.C. to join his 2019 MLS All-Star teammates. But on the bright side, he arrived with two full days of rest under his belt after D.C. United’s 0-0 draw at the Chicago Fire Saturday, another useful dose of recovery time for a player given several days off last week by D.C. coach Ben Olsen to nurse a few unspecified knocks and niggles.
A quick power nap, Wazza explained, and he’ll be good to go.
“I've been fine, to be honest. A couple of days where your body can rest after a tough game on the weekend. It's not something which I'm really worried about,” he said. “I'm used to the traveling now. I'm a bit tired. I was up at 4:00 this morning to get in here. But hopefully I can go to sleep this afternoon before I do the Skills Challenge.”
That’s good news for D.C. United, the All-Star Team and viewers of the Skills Challenge, a new All-Star event set for Tuesday evening featuring Rooney, Carlos Vela and several other players from the All-Star squad, Wednesday’s opponents Atletico Madrid and host club Orlando City SC.
Though Rooney was one of the last members of the delegation to arrive, he’s no stranger to the midsummer event, having starred in the second of Manchester United’s back-to-back All-Star cameos in 2010 and 2011, notching two assists as the Red Devils swept aside the MLS side 4-0 at Red Bull Arena.
“I remember in New York when we played them, you can feel the atmosphere and you can feel the excitement around the hotel around the game,” Rooney said. “It was obviously nice to play it then, but now to play in it on the other side is a bit more exciting and a bit more of a challenge to play against Atletico Madrid.
“I think it's good. It's good for the fans to watch. It's exciting. For us as players it's good for us to try and represent the league and put up a good game against one of the best teams in the world.”
Rooney offered up glowing praise of Atleti, runners-up in Spain last season and widely tabbed to give crosstown rivals Real Madrid and reigning La Liga champs FC Barcelona fits once again in the upcoming campaign, and perhaps even mount a deep run in the UEFA Champions League.
“Atletico under [Diego] Simeone have been a fantastic team for many years now,” he said. “What I like about them is that they know their job. Simeone, you can see, works out the team on the pitch to get them in shape and organized. So probably one of the toughest opponents we'll play.”
Rooney swiftly dismissed a new batch of English tabloid reports claiming that his wife has decided to return to the United Kingdom next year and that he’ll follow suit as soon as his current contract expires. But he did reveal his plans for the next phase of his career are already well underway, as he’s in the process of attaining his coaching certifications.
“It's something which I've thought about for a long time,” said Rooney. “I'm in the process of going through my badges. So yeah, it would be a shame for me to finish playing and walk away from the game. It's something which I want to do. I have a desire to go into management. So hopefully the right opportunity comes up.”