Wayne Rooney faces daunting task at Derby County, but he's not one to back down from a challenge. Image Credit: Reuters

1. “I just hate losing and that gives you an extra determination to work harder.”

Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney Image Credit: AP

Well, loss is exactly where Wayne Rooney will begin his career as a first-time manager at Derby County.

The 35-year-old English footballer — England and Manchester United’s all-time top-scorer — has retired from an illustrious career, leaving MLS side DC United after a 2-year stint. Now he’s manager at Derby County, facing a daunting task: he has to bring the club back from their latest loss, 0-1 against Rotherham on Saturday night (January 17), which dropped them to 23rd place on the English Football League (EFL) Championship table.

But loss only seems embolden Rooney to work harder. It’s certain that he’ll be looking to instill that relentless attitude into his players in order to climb back up to a respectable finish.

As we look forward, what kind of manager is Rooney likely to be?

2. “There are many ways to grow football-wise. You go slow, or are pushed to go faster, otherwise, you get left behind. For me, there would be trouble in stopping learning.” 

Wayne Rooney and Bobby Charlton
Wayne Rooney and Bobby Charlton. Rooney surpassed Charlton to become top scorer at Manchester United.

If Rooney is afraid to stop learning, becoming a manager is one sure way to keep him on his toes.

Quit while you’re ahead — that’s a prevalent mentality amongst footballers, whose careers are famously short-lived.

That’s why Rooney’s quick transition from player to manager is courageous. Someone with his statistics might shy away from a challenge, for fear of sullying or overshadowing his own success.

Why mess with perfection? Rooney is England’s all-time top-scorer with 53 goals; he’s also Manchester United’s top scorer with 253 goals. That could be enough.

But, it’s clear Rooney is less interested in shining off his medals and trophies to preen at his own reflection — and more interested in getting down and dirty where he’s truly needed.

3. “You can learn more from the lows than the highs. The highs are great but the lows make you really look at things in a different way and want to improve."

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney walks from the pitch after being shown a red card by referee Lee Mason during his team's English Premier League soccer match against West Ham United at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Saturday Sept. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super) Image Credit: AP

So if Rooney is driven by his stubborn resolve to achieve results, and not by a drive for money or status (he already posesses both)… Could he be exactly what Derby County needs? Or are they too far gone for even his help?

Derby County has a rich history and is no small ship to helm. It’s one of the 12 founding members of the Football League in 1988. It’s also one of the only (10 total) clubs to have completed in every season the English football league system.

Philip Coco — once Barcelona’s captain, and in 2004, the foreign player with the most appearances at the Spanish club — gave Derby County what he could before Rooney. He helped them finish at 10th place in 2019-20 season, but now leaves them near the bottom of the table.

This could signal short-lived glory for Rooney — even if he does manage success for one season, will he be able to make that stretch over several seasons?

Well, to hear it from the man himself… He’s planning to be as stubborn as Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho — one of the most celebrated managers of all time — is sometimes derided for sticking to his guns a bit too adamantly, but Rooney feels that bull-headed mentality can be exactly what the doctor ordered.

“[Louis] van Gaal’s preparation, Fergie’s man-management, [Jose] Mourinho’s stubbornness – I think sometimes you need that,” said Rooney, when quizzed about what qualities he’s planning to adapt from previous managers.

“Sam Allardyce knew what he wanted. You can only manage to the capabilities of your team and that’s what Sam has always done. Once I go into it,I’m sure I’ll have my own way.”

4. “Football’s about the young players, bringing youth team players through to the first team and hopefully getting the best out of them so they can go on to play for their country.”

Wayne Rooney and Alex Ferguson
Wayne Rooney and Alex Ferguson Image Credit: AP

Sir Alex Ferguson signed Rooney to Manchester United in 2004, when he was only 18. Rooney was the most expensive teenage player in the world, costing Ferguson a pretty penny — more than £20 million.

Even back in 2010, Rooney displayed his mentality of wanting to take on younger players. He asked Ferguson to sign Ozil in 2010, when Ozil, at 22, had shown for his country at the World Cup.

Ferguson and Rooney have had their ups and downs since, but heres what Fergie has to say about him transitioning into manager: “He’s England’s top goalscorer, Manchester United’s top goalscorer, and he’s had a fantastic career as a player.

“It’ll give him a starting point, ‘Like everyone else, myself, Kenny [Dalglish], Gareth [Southgate], it’s a results industry. You need to get results. He’ll know better than anyone. ‘He’s got knowledge of the game, there’s no question about that. He’s got a presence about him. It’s a big step for him. “I’m sure he is quite a wealthy young man now with his career in football. He probably doesn’t need to go into management to look after the family. He’s in a good position financially. ‘But he wants to do it. That’s important.

“There’s no point being the manager because someone asks you to be the manager. Now he has got the manager’s job and that is what he wanted. I hope he does well.”

5. “I’ve trained all my life. I’ve always been one who enjoys training, so it’s not something that I think I can just stop doing.”

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney tides over a tackle during the English Premiership clash against Portsmouth at Fratton Park in Portsmouth on Saturday. Image Credit: Reuters

Ferguson knows a thing or two about starting from the bottom. He famously managed Manchester United for 27 years. But when he took the club on in 1986, they were at 21 on the table — second from the bottom.

By the time the season was over, Ferguson had managed to yank them up to 11th place. So while Rooney’s task is tough — it’s not impossible, and his own boss has proved that.

As Rooney said himself, he’s trained all his life. Time will tell if that vigour and perseverance will be enough to make his beginnings as a manager as fruitful as he would surely hope for.

How do the world’s best players describe Rooney?

Over the years, Rooney has played both for and against some of the world's top players, some of whom have gone on to become managers themselves. Here's how other footballers have described Rooney...

I miss playing with Rooney. He was the kid of England, everyone loved him. He was so powerful I was calling him ‘Pitbull.’ The power of Wayne Rooney is his mentality and strength and he never stops. He’s a fantastic team player and he scores. He’s a fantastic boy and he helped me a lot when he came to join us in Manchester.

- Cristiano Ronaldo

There has always been a great deal of respect between myself and Wayne Rooney. For me he is the great English player of the generation. What he is capable of doing on the field is very special, and he is one of the few players that would improve any squad in Europe.

- Lionel Messi

His aggression is one of his big strengths. He has no fear at all. Wayne knows he has the ability, but he has this knack of being able to go out there and not be scared of anyone no matter who he is up against.

- Frank Lampard

I have never seen a player as powerful as Rooney – the way he goes past people, the intensity of his play, the runs he makes from the first minute to the last and the shot that he has. World class.

- Gerard Pique

You will only truly appreciate Rooney when he’s retired. It’s a shame, but it’s always like that ... To play well for six months or a season in football is nothing. To do so for over a decade like Rooney is extraordinary. I know what it takes, and it isn’t easy. Trust me, people talk about him outside of this country. In Spain and France, he is appreciated as a top, top player.

- Thierry Henry