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Wayne Rooney to leave D.C. United for Derby County in 2020

Wayne Rooney is leaving MLS sooner than expected. In 2020, he will join EFL Championship side Derby County FC.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The whirlwind of Wayne Rooney at D.C. United is coming to an end sooner than expected.

With the permission of United, Rooney will join English Championship side Derby County in January 2020 as a player-coach, the team announced Tuesday.

“After speaking to Wayne and understanding his difficult situation of being so far away from his family, we have accepted that this is the best decision for all parties,” D.C. United co-chairmen Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien said in a joint statement. “Our main focus now is the 2019 MLS Season and ensuring we make a push towards the playoffs with the ultimate goal of bringing an MLS Cup back to the District. Wayne is an exceptional leader and one of the most iconic players to play the game, so we look forward to his continued contributions to the team this season.”

Derby County chief executive Stephen Pearce came to America this week to meet with United officials, and Rooney flew to England to complete the deal Tuesday. As promised, Rooney will return stateside this week to continue preparations for United’s game against the LA Galaxy on Sunday. He will finish out the 2019 season with United. 

“I remain fully focused on giving my all for the team for the rest of this season and repaying the support shown by the Black-and-Red faithful by hopefully delivering an MLS Cup to Audi Field,” Rooney said. “My time in Major League Soccer is something I will always be proud of. The supporters in the Screaming Eagles, Barra Brava and District Ultras have made my time in America so enjoyable. While the decision to move home was a tough one, family is everything to us and we make this change to be closer to the ones we love back in England. The opportunity to go back home and start the next step of my career in coaching was the factor that made my mind up.

”I would like to thank everyone at D.C. United for the incredible support my family and I have received over my two seasons at the club.”

While the details of the deal are not public, Rooney will stay on as an ambassador to D.C. United going forward.

Rooney came to United in July 2018 just days prior to the opening of Audi Field. He led the team to a dramatic turnaround that took United from last in the Eastern Conference to hosting a playoff game. Originally on a contract of 2 1/2 years with an option to extend an additional year to 2021, Rooney and United agreed to terminate the existing contract in order to make way for any move. 

In what seems to be its first post-Rooney preparation, United is in the process of bringing in former LA Galaxy forward Ola Kamara from Chinese side Shenzhen. The deal is pending final signatures. Kamara scored 14 goals in 31 game before forcing a move to China in 2018. In the Chinese Super League, Kamara saw a bit of a dip in production with just five appearances and no goals.

It will take a lot more than Kamara to fill the hole left by Rooney. The current United captain has scored 23 goals and recorded 14 assists in 43 games. He missed just his second game of the season late last month while traveling home to see his family, but returned for subsequent MLS games and the All-Star Game in Orlando.

The move back to England came as his family reportedly missed being close to home. The father of four spent most of his career in Manchester and Everton, close to his home of Liverpool.

“We heard that Wayne was obviously looking to come back to the UK,” Derby County owner Mel Morris told Sky Sports. “Once we heard that, we thought we would inquire to see if there was any way we could help with that.”

Derby County FC is based in Derbyshire, England and competes in the second-tier EFL Championship. They finished sixth in the league table last season. Derby is managed by former Barcelona and Netherlands national team midfielder Phillip Cocu. American midfielder Duane Holmes plays for Derby, scoring twice in 25 games last season.

Rooney is expected to return to D.C. Wednesday in preparation for a home game against LA Galaxy Aug. 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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