After a number of draining years towards the end of his tenure at Manchester United, and a final 12 months with his boyhood club Everton, Wayne Rooney is now beginning to rekindle his old magic that first made his name. Playing with D.C. United in MLS’ Eastern Conference, the England all-time leading goalscorer is enjoying his football once again.

Before Rooney had arrived in the States, there were plenty of questions for the former England captain to answer. At the age of 32, was he willing to leave European football – because he could have quite easily left the Premier League but find another, respectable club abroad – or would he cut his ties with his home continent and start afresh in America.

It’s fair to say that during the final two years of his career at Manchester United, fans were beginning to grow tired of seeing him put on the jersey. His relationship had been strained with the spectators after demanding a move away under Sir Alex Ferguson on a number of occasions, but they still rooted for him – that was until his performances on the pitch deteriorated.


Rooney returns to his boyhood club Everton

It was as if the retirement of his former mentor, Ferguson, accelerated Rooney’s decline. His first touch was never world-class, but it had seemingly got worse as he grew older, in conjunction with his physical attributes of speed, power and physicality also wearing down. He was no longer the energetic, bombarding forward he once was.


This transformation is not exclusive to Rooney, all players go through it, but it was a surprise to some to see the downward spiral happen at such an alarming rate and for his level to drastically drop. And so after coming to the realisation that, especially under José Mourinho, he would not have a regular place in the United team, he left the club as their all-time record goalscorer – an achievement that he will always be remembered for, along with his countless titles, trophies and accolades.

Rejoining Everton – the club he left to join the Red Devils when he was 19-years-old – was not a business decision made by the club. Instead, it was a nostalgic transaction that Bill Kenwright, the Chairman when Rooney first appeared on the scene, gave the green light to. It was clear that the Evertonian’s days were numbered playing at the truly top level, and while the Toffees were not at that stage just yet, they certainly had ambitions to reach such heights.

In what would be Rooney’s last season in England, he managed to record three assists and score 11 goals in 40 appearances. Although he would not always start as the centre forward, Rooney’s overall contribution in England had diminished rapidly and he was beginning to become more of a hindrance than a solution to how Everton wanted to play – especially when Marco Silva was appointed.


A fresh start in the MLS

And so his journey to D.C. United began. With their owner, Jason Levien, also co-owning Swansea City, the links were there to get the deal over the line ahead of their competitors. Rooney’s move to the States was met with cynicism and skepticism, primarily because fans meet any league besides the Premier League with prejudice, but with hindsight, it now looks like the perfect match.

Out of the public furore and pressure that always follows him, Rooney could start again and enjoy his football while in his mid-30s. There were expectations of him arriving on a big wage that would trump any player in the team, but his experience and pedigree justified most of that.

Some might have thought he would excel in Major League Soccer, but no one anticipated just how reinvigorated Rooney would become. Before arriving, D.C. United were in last place of the Eastern Conference, 13 points adrift of the last remaining play-off spot. Since Rooney began playing for Ben Olsen, United’s form has taken a dramatic upswing and they have won 12 of their last 19 games, qualifying for the play-offs with one game to go.

The former England international has been front and centre of D.C. United’s change in form. Rooney has found the back of the net on 12 occasions while also assisting his team-mates nine times in 19 appearances, showing his immense form that has led the club into the play-offs.

With such a turnaround in his performances, questions will start to arise as to whether he might be inclined to follow the same route David Beckham took. That was, of course, coming back to Europe in the off-season on a loan transfer. With the numbers to his name in America, there will be a few clubs inclined to send their offers his way, but he might just value the time off to recharge the batteries.

Aside from the fantastic on-pitch performances he has shown the American fans, what has been most pleasing is the fact that Rooney looks to have fallen back in love with the game. It was clear that, by the end of his time with United, Everton and England, Rooney was struggling with the constant berating from fans. While the standard is at a lower level in MLS, that shouldn’t be seen as a negative, nor something that distracts people away from what he has achieved so far with D.C. United.

Whether or not Rooney opts to come back to Europe for a few months or not, the fact that he looks happy and is receiving the adulation he deserves week in, week out, is always going to be a good sign for people who have watched him throughout his career.

He might not have been appreciated like he should have been in his native country, but the Americans will soon – if not have already – fall in love with him. Rooney will always be a legend of the game and deserves to be treated as one.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

Join the discussion