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Battle-Tested Wayne Rooney Brings Experience From Difficult Scenarios to New Job in DC

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One of the biggest stories to come out of Major League Soccer this week broke away from the field of play, as rumors initially circulated late Sunday night that former DC United forward Wayne Rooney, who departed MLS three years ago to join then-EFL Championship side Derby County as player/coach between 2020 and 2022, would be hired as DC’s permanent manager.

On Tuesday, less than 48 hours after the initial reports from The Athletic’s Pablo Mauer broke, the rumors came true, as it was announced that Rooney would, indeed, be the next man in charge for DC United.

Wayne Rooney Inherits Difficult Scenario in Nation’s Capital

Wayne Rooney succeeds former DC United coach Hernan Losada, who was terminated by the club about three months ago, with Chad Ashton taking DC’s managerial duties on an interim basis.

Since Losada was terminated earlier in the spring, however, DC United’s situation has shown no signs of improvement– with the wheels being set in motion for the possibility of Wayne Rooney joining the club as its new head coach on the afternoon of July 8.

One night earlier, in a nationally-televised match on ESPN to kick off MLS Rivalry Week, DC United traveled to Chester, PA’s Subaru Park to play the Philadelphia Union, last season’s Eastern Conference runners-up.

To say it was an ugly night for DC United would qualify for the understatement of 2022 thus far, as this match tied for the most-lopsided full time score in MLS history at 7-0.

Philadelphia Union Score Seven Unanswered Goals on DC United, Yielding to Rooney Rumors

The Philadelphia/ DC match got off to a fast start, as during the ninth minute of play, midfielder Alejandro Bedoya netted the first Union goal of the evening, followed up in the 22nd minute by a tally from striker/forward Julian Carranza to give the home side a 2-0 cushion, but it would only get more comfortable from there for Philadelphia.

Carranza would find the net for a second time three minutes later to pad the Union’s lead to 3-0 and a second Bedoya goal in the 37th minute of action would see Philadelphia’s advantage swell to 4-0, giving the Union the match as a contest for all purposes.

Forward Mikael Uhre netted his first goal of a brace in the second-minute of first-half stoppage time, followed by his second of the game in the 59th minute of play.

Bedoya finished off his hat-trick, and by extension, the scoring as a whole, with a 72nd-minute goal.

At the close of last weekend’s games, DC United had a 5-2-10 win-loss-draw record, having only accumulated 17 points in the standings while being outscored 37-23 over the first half of the 2022 MLS season, the second-worst showing in the Eastern Conference behind only Chicago Fire FC’s 4-5-10 record over the course of 17 weekends.

After surrendering seven goals without a response of its own, it became clear for DC United that permanence at head coach was the answer, and Wayne Rooney was on the team’s radar for the second half of this season.

Wayne Rooney Deal Official

Tuesday afternoon, a little more than three and a half days removed from the nationally-televised blowout, DC United officially revealed that Wayne Rooney would be the team’s ninth permanent manager since its 1996 establishment and 10th different manager all told, factoring in both interim reigns from Chad Ashton.

The club’s statement mentioned that Ashton would continue to serve as its interim head coach pending receipt of Rooney’s P-1 work visa, meaning that the latter’s much-anticipated debut as head coach will not happen for a few more weeks.

Already, one can plainly see that Wayne Rooney’s hiring is a most welcome change in regime for DC United, but the scenario the new manager inherited is by no means uncharted territory.

He’s been in something like this before.

Wayne Rooney Successfully Leads Derby County Away From Relegation Zone in 2020-21 EFL Season

Upon joining Derby County as player/coach in January of 2020, he assumed the role of team captain, tallying six goals over the balance of the 2019-20 season, having played in 24 matches down the stretch, with the team ending the campaign sitting in 10th place in the EFL Championship standings, but Derby got themselves in a sticky situation the next year under Wayne Rooney’s watch.

In November of 2020, with Derby County only having won a single match out of 10 to begin the season, the team fired Phillip Cocu as head coach one week after Derby suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Barnsley Football Club.

Subsequent to Cocu’s firing, Wayne Rooney assumed interim managerial duties for Derby County until the club removed the interim tag from Rooney’s title in January of 2021.

With Derby County facing relegation to League One on the final matchday of the 2020-21 season, the club’s place in the Championship was saved upon a 78th-minute penalty kick scored by forward Martyn Waghorn to draw even against Sheffield Wednesday, 3-3, giving Derby a draw to keep them in the Championship and relegate their opponents that afternoon.

Points Penalties Lead to Rooney’s Resignation

Last September, just weeks into the 2021-22 EFL Championship season, Derby County were penalized 12 points upon going into administration (bankruptcy) by the EFL, the customary docking for a team entering bankruptcy, with the club losing a subsequent appeal.

In November of last year, Derby received a further nine-point penalty stemming from a violation of the EFL’s profitability policy, all but sealing the club’s fate.

Back in April, Derby County had officially been relegated to League One while still in bankruptcy and a few weeks ago, Wayne Rooney resigned his post as the club’s manager, with Rooney saying after his now-former team’s relegation earlier in the spring, “It’s a sad day. I’m sad, disappointed, upset, frustrated, but proud.”

Final Thoughts

Although Wayne Rooney’s hiring as DC United’s new head coach brings a familiar name back to Washington, time will soon tell whether or not the decision made by the team to hire one of its former players was well-advised.

Rooney said that he worked his hardest to invigorate Derby County’s players even with the organization’s financial woes.

When Wayne Rooney assumes permanent managerial duties for DC United, he’ll need to do the same again as the club works toward respectability down the stretch.

If all goes well, maybe in about 15 months or so from this date, we’ll be talking about DC United winning MLS Cup with Wayne Rooney as its head coach.

Main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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