Wayne Rooney is desperate to sign off his American adventure with silverware after deciding to cut short his stay at DC United.
The former Manchester United striker will leave two years earlier than planned to join English second-tier side Derby County in January.
Rooney has been a standout performer in MLS, an import who has justified the excitement that heralded his arrival, helping to turn DC from also-rans to playoff contenders.
His former England team-mate David Beckham won the MLS Cup twice with the Los Angeles Galaxy, and Rooney would love to achieve the feat just once.
“They’ve been fantastic to me,” Rooney said of his current club. “We’re in a good position in the league – there’s nine games left of the season.”
Speaking in Derby on Tuesday, Rooney stressed he had no thoughts about cutting his ties with DC abruptly.
“I think it’d be disrespectful to them if I didn’t finish the season and try to help get us into a playoff spot and try to win a trophy,” Rooney added.
“That was always the plan, then to come here in January.”
— Derby County (@dcfcofficial) August 6, 2019
DC have been in a slump, winning just one of their past seven games, to raise questions about whether they can sustain the push to reach the post-season.
In a statement, however, Rooney underlined his commitment to that challenge by saying: “I remain fully focused on giving my all for the team for the rest of this season and repaying the support shown by the Black-and-Red faithful by hopefully delivering an MLS Cup to Audi Field.”
According to the Washington Post, DC are already looking at bringing Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil to the club next year – a signing that could even trump the impact of the Rooney acquisition.
Rooney is taking on a player-coach role at Derby, with the initial emphasis on what he can contribute on the pitch as the two-time former English champions bid to return to the Premier League.
He is working towards achieving his coaching badges “as quickly as I can”, with a long-term objective of following former England colleagues Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard by becoming a manager.
“It’s great to see them going into management,” Rooney said.
“I’ve always had the ambition to do so – it’s great these young English managers are getting the opportunities.
“I feel over the last 15-20 years we haven’t seen so many great ex-England players going into management.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and when the time is right hopefully I can move into it. But my first aim is to play.”
Rooney said family reasons had been a motivation behind him wanting to head home to England, and the 33-year-old believes Derby can achieve the success their wealthy owner Mel Morris wants for the club.
“Derby is a club with great ambitions,” said Rooney, who has signed an 18-month deal with the Championship side.
“In the last few years they’ve put a lot of money into the club to try to take the next step to get into the Premier League.
“I feel it was a place where I could come in, use my experience and try to help them to achieve their goals.
“The squad of players is a good squad – you have to believe your squad is good enough to take that next step and we’ll work hard to make sure we can do that.”
Derby manager Phillip Cocu, who moved in during the close season after Lampard left to become Chelsea head coach, says Rooney can bring “a great deal of influence… on the pitch and off the pitch”.
“The way we work – with a lot of youngsters coming up – he can help the team to develop,” said former PSV boss Cocu. “We can help him in a future role, being a coach, being a manager. I think it’s a perfect moment to join together and work together.”
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