Wayne Rooney has bid adieu to the Premier League for his own American invasion. Following the footsteps of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and most recently Zlatan Ibrahimović, the former Red Devil has signed with Major League Soccer (MLS) side D.C. United before the 2018/2019 Premier League campaign kicks off. After leaving Old Trafford at the conclusion of the 2016/2017 domestic year, the England international spent one uninspiring year at his boyhood club Everton.
As a United supporter, it’s bittersweet to watch once the most respected players at Old Trafford undergo a quick downward spiral towards semi-retirement. For 2 ½ years in the nation’s capital, Rooney will earn a reported $13 million, making him the highest paid player in MLS. A move to the United States ends a successful European career that includes five league titles, three League Cups, an FA Cup, Europa League trophy and the Champions League in 2008.
At 32 years old, Rooney shouldn’t be eyeing a road to retirement. Even during his final year at United, he wasn’t even their oldest player. Newly retired Michael Carrick carried that honor, following by eventual MLS opponent Zlatan. However, it’s worth considering that there are a number of factors that foreshadowed his stateside move, and unfortunately this arguable fall from grace for the striker shows that just about anyone’s career has to the ability to take a sharp turn in a matter of months.
The offseason is a crucial time to not only prove your bill to the managerial team, but also prepare for a fresh start on filling your trophy case. Naturally, one’s diet should complement routine conditioning, but with room for flexibility. In Rooney’s case, maintaining his form during the summer months was the least of his worries. Patterns of excessive drinking overshadowed any news of his fitness, and eventually led to a drunk driving conviction.
In his final season under José Mourinho, Rooney was often relegated to a spectator on the bench, only making appearances against lower-ranked clubs or near stoppage time, when United had almost surely secured three points against their opposition. Arguably, Rooney’s sole shining moment in his final season at Old Trafford came against Stoke City when he scored this howler, effectively breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s record as United’s all-time leading scorer at 250 goals. Besides achieving such an accomplishment in 546 appearances in a red kit, there was nothing more he could do to justify his status as the highest earning player at the club.
Compared to his former teammate and Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who at 33 shows no signs of a decline, Rooney should be ideally in the same position as the Real Madrid striker. Both players of superlative skill, the English national team has played exceptionally well without their former captain in this year’s World Cup, while Portugal largely has United’s former number 7 to thank for their promotion into the knockout stage.
Plagued by rumors of a departure since Mourinho’s tenure in Manchester began, Rooney’s return to Goodison Park was inevitable and mutually beneficial. With several years left in the tank, 13 years later he would have the homecoming so many Everton fans long dreamed of becoming a reality. Despite taking a sizeable pay cut of nearly forty percent, this move was a chance to reignite a career that had been deemed stagnant. Millions were poured into ushering the man’s transfer, yet the return failed to meet expectations.
Was Rooney sold a false dream, which included shelling out considerable funds to provide him the best manager the Merseyside team could afford in Sam Allardyce? Perhaps. Seems as though he and the former Crystal Palace boss never established a healthy relationship, and a club record of 24 substitutions wasn’t quite the triumph Rooney hoped to boast about. In spite of their frail relationship, Rooney still managed to close out his first year back as a Toffee with 11 goals, earning the title of the club’s leading goalscorer. Those 11 goals would only come in the first half of last year’s campaign, Rooney failed to register a single goal or assist in 2018, and soon that long-awaited reality that gave fans hope of an even a Europa League appearance would be left to the responsibility of a future superstar striker.
On July 14th, D.C. United will host their first home game of the MLS season against the Vancouver Whitecaps in their brand new $195 million stadium, Audi Field. If all goes according to plan, Wayne Rooney will make his MLS debut in front of thousands of who are either very or vaguely familiar with his name and European accolades. While Rooney’s Premier League career has seen better days, his MLS resurgence can only be expected to be just good enough that his looming retirement will have fans singing the skipper’s praises of his glory days as a Manchester United Red Devil.