Wayne Rooney’s rumoured move to MLS and DC United is a bit of a strange one. The boyhood Blue has had a...reasonably successful return to Everton, scoring 11 goals and regularly being a part of Ronald Koeman, David Unsworth, and Sam Allardyce’s starting lineups.
Recently, though, Rooney has had a tougher go of it. The club legend has had trouble playing in midfield, and has been substituted off to varying levels of anger. Rumors persist that he’s unhappy, and so, DC United have stepped into the frame.
Why would Rooney want to sign for the black and red? We spoke to Jason at Black and Red United to find out.
The Washington Post is linking Wayne Rooney with a move from Everton to D.C. United, and it’s got fans of the Black-and-Red feeling a lot of things. On one hand, after a solid decade of being among MLS’s stingiest clubs, it’s one more glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. D.C. spent a bit last summer, and will open a new stadium in a couple of months, and being able to sign a Premier League player would be another step towards moving back up the ranks in MLS.
On the other hand, we know enough to see Everton fan reaction (which appears to be “how can we make sure this happens?”) and be wary. The smartest MLS clubs have wisely started moving towards investing their larger fees towards young South American talent, with the idea being to develop them for a bit longer and then sell while they’re still young enough for European sides are interested. Signing Rooney at 32 is more or less the opposite, and it’s the kind of move MLS’s smartest clubs have been drifting away from since around 2014.
If Rooney were to agree to come to D.C. (which is still a substantial question, as United is being linked to players like Mario Balotelli, Javier Hernandez, and whatever is left of Carlos Tevez), he’d be coming here to play as a striker, full stop. For one, I don’t have to tell Everton fans about his lack of mobility, which effectively rules out a midfield role in MLS, which is a league that often sees technical ability and soccer intelligence replaced with effort, graft, grit, and the like.
Perhaps more importantly, United has a significant problem up front. The best option on the current roster, Darren Mattocks, broadly appears to be on pace to get to 14-15 over a full season. However, he’s never scored more than 7 goals in an MLS season, and is largely known for being inconsistent and frustrating fans by turning great chances into remarkable misses. It is not silly to believe that his current goal-scoring pace is not sustainable. And at the moment, he’s miles ahead of United’s other strikers.
On top of that, United has a pretty capable midfield, so the “what position should Rooney play?” questions that have been around forever wouldn’t really be a factor here. They’d play him up front in either a 4141 or 4231, and the hope would be that his experience at the highest levels would be able to give him enough of an edge over defenses mentally to overcome what he’s lacking physically.
The soccer side might not even be the deciding factor here. DCU has been an afterthought in the District for at least a decade, and in fact the hot topic before this rumor broke was whether it was acceptable for the team to snip at local media for a long-standing “D.C. Sports Curse” narrative that consistently ignores United despite a full trophy cabinet. Rooney would be signed first and foremost because he’s a Big Name that local sports fans (not just soccer fans) recognize from their dalliances with the World Cup or the occasional Sunday morning Premier League game on NBC. This would be a move designed to make a splash in the market first, and improve the team second.
The other side of this equation is what Rooney would want in such a move. Let’s start with the money. Everton pays Rooney a colossal salary, but judging from MLS moves of players with a similar profile, a move to MLS usually comes with 10-20% raise. There are strong rumors that United is going to be sold to some very wealthy folks, so that side of things probably won’t be a problem for the club.
There’s also the lower pressure of being Wayne Rooney outside of England. Currently, he’s under a massive spotlight at all times. A quick scan of Google reveals articles about where he wants to spend his wedding anniversary, and the tabloids in the UK probably have some kind of dubious story about him in the works just as a matter of course.
Here, Rooney and his family will be able to live a far more quiet life. Remember, this is a region where signing Rooney is in part to get local media to actually pay some attention to the fact that there’s a soccer team in town. There won’t be stories on the evening news discussing Rooney going out for a pint with his teammates the day after a game. His wife and kids will be able to wander town without so much as drawing a second glance.
So for both sides, there is some legitimate appeal to this move. United, as a club, feels they need to sign a better striker and also sign a player who can move the needle locally, and Rooney fits the bill. For Rooney, the wage packet is probably going to be appealing, and his stress level will probably drop considerably. Don’t be surprised if this ends up coming to fruition.
What do you think, Blues? Should Everton sanction Wayne Rooney’s proposed move to America? Let us know in the comments below.