D.C. United made the signing of Wayne Rooney official on Thursday morning, and by Thursday afternoon, the legendary English striker arrived at Dulles Airport to begin his American adventure. After what seemed like a long, drawn-out process after the first rumor of Rooney signing dropped in early May, Rooney’s arrival signaled United’s biggest ever signing, both in terms of the player’s popularity in the global game, and the amount of money spent getting the player under contract.
Rooney was greeted at Dulle Airport by a large group of United supporters who made the trek out to Virginia to meet their new designated player. Accompanied by several team officials, Rooney donned an United scarf, and stopped to sign autographs with many of the fans, taking selfies with the fans as well.
Getting the deal done in June gives Rooney several weeks to get acclimated to the area and his new team before he can take the field. United have two more road games, at New England this weekend, and at the LA Galaxy on July 4th, before they open Audi Field against the Vancouver Whitecaps on July 14th. Though Rooney is officially part of the United now, he is not eligible to play until the secondary transfer window opens on July 10th.
Given that he will have two weeks to train with his new team, Rooney will likely then make his debut, whether as a starter or a substitute, when United unveils their new $400 million stadium in Southwest D.C. on July 14th.
United had long made it known that playing at RFK Stadium had hampered their ability to make signings such as the one to bring England’s all-time men’s leading scorer to the nation’s capital. The team began to invest more in the playing squad last year, bringing in Paul Arriola, Zoltan Stieber, and Yamil Asad, but none of those come close to the same outlay that was required to get Rooney to don the Black-and-Red.
Rooney will take the field with a team that has a lot of work to do in the final four months of the season if they wish to make the playoffs after missing out last year. United have seemed to figure out their goal scoring woes, but have just two wins in their first 12 games, albeit with a road heavy schedule. Once Rooney is ready to start, he will likely take the place of Darren Mattocks, who currently leads the team with 7 goals this season.
After the trips to New England and Los Angeles, United will play 15 of the last 20 games of the season at their new stadium. Which means there will be plenty of opportunities this year for United fans to see the team’s new marquee signing in action. The 32 year old signed a three and a half year contract with United, which will keep him with the team until the end of the 2021 season.
While many teams around the league have brought in similar players to Rooney’s stature since David Beckham first arrived in 2007, United has never really entered the same stratosphere in terms of popularity of signings. Marcelo Gallardo was the last internationally renowned player United signed, but the Argentinian only played a single season with the Black-and-Red, without much fanfare. Arguably, the biggest name United ever signed was Hristo Stoichkov, who played for one season in 2003. The Bulgarian had won the Ballon d’Or earlier in his career, but by the time he joined United, he was 37 years old, and nine years removed from the honor of being the best player in the world.
The biggest part of this entire equation is how Rooney will adapt to MLS. Rooney scored the most ever goals for the English men’s national team, and is the leading scorer in all of Manchester United’s history. However, last summer, he moved back to his boyhood club, Everton, to mixed results. He led the team in goals, with 11, but his playing time waned over the course of the season. Though he was moved to a midfield position, Rooney was unable to dictate games in a fashion that he had with the Red Devils.
Over the course of his career, he has played in nearly 800 professional games. He played 676 club games in all competitions with Everton and Manchester United, while also earning 119 caps with England. He scored 334 goals in those 795 games.