What’s Next for Derby County & Wayne Rooney?

Jordan Edmonds

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What’s next for Derby County & Wayne Rooney?

After the surprise decision that saw Wayne Rooney quit his role as boss of Derby County, the Rams will have to rebuild from League One without the Manchester United legend, who himself will be embarking on a new challenge.

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Rams Rebuild

The East Midlands outfit were faced with an uphill struggle last season, with 21 points deducted due to financial struggles, which left Rooney’s side with a mountain to climb to have any chance of securing their Championship status.

Derby fought bravely and Rooney did a good job – they would have finished 18 points clear of relegation had it not been for the deductions – but it wasn’t enough to prevent relegation to the third tier, despite a courageous effort.

There was hope that Rooney would continue to lead the team and begin the fight back up the football pyramid. Despite reports that the former England captain was helping fund the wages of players from his own pocket, Rooney left his position as manager with the club in administration ahead of the new League One campaign.

It may have looked damning for the Rams ahead of the new season in the third tier, as at the time, they were struggling for funds seeing them with just seven first-team players ahead of the new season and without a manager. However, it’s looking a lot more promising now, with Rooney’s former assistant Liam Rosenior taking temporary charge. The club have also been bought by Clowes Development and are now out of administration, as well as bringing in a lot of players that could make a huge impact in League One.

Derby have signed 11 new players, with plenty of experience, as the team rebuilds for the new season. Whilst they have still had to recruit players from the free transfer market (because the business plan agreed with the Football League as part of Clowes' takeover dictates that they cannot pay fees for players), they have still brought in some strong acquisitions. After spending last season starring for Sheffield United, Conor Hourihane made the free transfer to Derby from Aston Villa, along with David McGoldrick who arrived at Pride Park on a free from the Blades.

Derby have also signed Preston winger Tom Barkhuizen, Sheffield Wednesday attacker Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Swansea City’s Korey Smith, and James Collins from Cardiff. Veteran defender James Chester has joined from Stoke and young prospect Kwaku Oduroh has arrived from Manchester City. The Rams have also brought in Haydon Roberts on loan from Brighton, as well as signing two goalkeepers in Scott Loach and Joe Wildsmith.

It's been an impressive window for Derby, with Rosenior even suggesting there could be more signings to come. It’s seen them emerge as one of the favourites to earn promotion from League One next season, as the rebuild gets underway. Only time will tell if they can get back on track and back to the second tier.

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Rooney Back in Washington

After walking out of Pride Park last month, it didn’t take long for Rooney to land his next managerial role. The ex-Everton striker claimed that the club needed ‘fresh energy’ before the club’s ownership status was resolved and left Derby in June. One month later, Rooney was announced as manager of DC United in America’s Major League Soccer.

Rooney used to play for the Washington outfit in 2018 and made a big impact in the States. England and Manchester United’s all-time top goalscorer was made captain of the side after just three games and helped lift DC from the bottom of the Eastern Conference to play-off contenders in the second half of his first season.

He played a huge part in the team’s turnaround in form and often popped up with moments of brilliance to excite the crowd – such as his halfway line goal, or his incredible last-minute assist which saw him sprint back from an attacking corner, slide in to win the ball with a clean challenge and stop a counterattack, before arrowing it forward into the box for his team to finish.

The Black-and-Reds will be looking for Rooney to make his managerial impact straight away, currently sat at rock-bottom of the league table. With Rooney not yet fully in charge as he awaits his work visa, DC are still flagging at the bottom. They have lost four of their last six in the league, including a 7-0 thrashing to Philadelphia earlier in July.

Rooney’s arrival should help improve fortunes at the MLS side, much like when he arrived as a player. He will also be looking to bring in some of his old players, with players such as Ravel Morrison – who has had a turbulent career but enjoyed a good spell with Derby under Rooney – being linked with a move to the States along with other Derby and Man United players.

With his reputation as a legendary striker, along with his experience as manager of Derby, it puts Rooney in good stead to do well across the pond. Across his 18 months in charge of the Rams, Rooney built a spirit and team ethic that the Derby faithful could be proud of, doing a great job in a difficult and restricting situation. It’ll be interesting to see how Rooney will get on in the MLS with DC United, and how Derby look to build on into a new era.

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