What can you say about Wayne Rooney that hasn’t already been said?
A Manchester United legend, England’s greatest ever goal scorer, and a player who has achieved it all at club level.
Despite becoming United’s greatest goalscorer after surpassing Sir Bobby Charlton and returning to his boyhood club Everton 13 years after leaving them for the red side of Manchester, Rooney’s last few seasons in the Premier League were underwhelming when compared to the rest of his star-studded career.
The American change
So when the news came that 32-year-old Rooney would be swapping Merseyside for the capital city of America and joining D.C. United, many fans on both sides of the Atlantic were sceptical.
In the past, players who had spent their entire careers in Europe and then made the move to the US in their final two or three years found it difficult to adjust.
Some, like Frank Lampard and David Beckham, found it tough at first but eventually found their feet. Others, such as Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo, were never able to adapt to their new settings and ultimately flopped in the so-called “Retirement League”.
Rooney, obviously, didn’t read the script.
The Rooney impact
Before the arrival of Rooney, DC United were a mess. They were rock bottom of the Eastern Conference, they had only won two games all season, and it looked to be another season without MLS Playoff football. But then two things happened.
First Rooney joined and then their new stadium finally opened. For the majority of the season up until now, DC had played all but two of their games away from home, and playing away in a league like MLS takes a serious toll on the visiting team.
Not only do you have to travel thousands of miles and cross into different time zones, but the climate of the city you’re playing at can be completely different as well.
After 12 games on the road, it was time to return to Washington and to finally play in their new 20,000-seat stadium.
The signing of Rooney had deliberately been done to align with the opening of Audi Field, and so when the former Manchester United legend stepped onto the pitch as a second-half substitute, the atmosphere was electric.
Benefitting from a Premier League legend
Rooney has not only lifted the spirits of DC United fans, but also the players in the squad. Since moving the American capital the four-time MLS Cup champions have won six of their last eight home games, including an emphatic 3-1 win over current league leaders Atlanta United, and the Black-and-Reds are now five points behind the Montreal Impact for the final playoff spot in the East with two games in hand over the Canadian team.
One DC player to really benefit from the arrival of Rooney is Luciano Acosta. The Argentine midfielder had only scored once in the league before the arrival of the former England captain, but since then Acosta has scored six goals, including a hat-trick against Orlando City when Rooney provided THAT assist in the 96th minute.
As well as Acosta’s sudden rise in stock, the rest of the players in the side are feeling the positive vibes from Rooney’s arrival.
Speaking to GiveMeSport, DC United defender Steve Birnbaum praised the England legend’s impact both on and off the pitch.
Birnbaum said: “He's brought a winning mentality to this group which we needed, and you can see he’s raised the level of every player on the field, and having him there makes you want to win.
“He’s done not just a great job on the field but off the field and in the locker room. He’s been getting to know each guy and helping out the younger players as well as talking to the veterans of the group just to get a feel for the situation before each game.
“He’s a captain and has been leading this group, and we just try to support him in any way possible.”
When Rooney joined DC in the summer, many were sceptical. How good would the former Everton player be in a new league in a new country?
But it’s clear to see that England’s leading goal scorer has taken to MLS like a duck to water and not only improved his new team, but grown the league’s reputation internationally once again.
And the best is yet to come.