Life after MLS began in style for Wayne Rooney on Thursday as his free-kick set up Derby County's opening goal in a 2-1 win over Barnsley in Rooney's debut for the English Championship side.
After spotting Jack Marriott for the opener with a long diagonal service from the left just before halftime, Rooney also contributed a quality diagonal ball during the sequence leading to Martyn Waghorn's winner.
Wayne Rooney with a sweet assist on his return to English football 👏 pic.twitter.com/apB77WHyWl— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 2, 2020
The 34-year-old Rooney was deployed in a central midfield role for Derby in his first game following a year-and-a-half spell with D.C. United, whom he helped reach back to back MLS Cup Playoffs.
Rooney contributed 23 goals and 15 assists in 48 league appearances primarily as a striker for D.C., which finished fourth in the Eastern Conference in 2017 after a slow start prior to Rooney's arrival, and fifth in 2018.
The former Manchester United and England star was originally expected to remain on Potomac Avenue at least one more season. But with the combination of an offer to serve as a player-coach at Derby under Phillip Cocu and some reported homesickness among his family, Rooney and D.C. mutually agreed to part ways a season early.
While Rooney wasn't officially eligible to play for Derby until England's winter transfer window opened, he made his debut as a coach on Cocu's staff on Nov. 30.