When Wayne Rooney walked off the pitch following Saturday night's 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids at Audi Field, his face was smattered with blood thanks to a broken nose incurred from a Rapids corner kick in the closing moments of the match. With the visitors pressing for an equalizer, Rooney's aggressive defense on the set piece helped maintain United's lead and clearly showed the forward's grit and pure determination to win. As the match ended and a battered Rooney walked to the locker room to address the broken nose and receive five stitches, the image was emblematic of D.C. United's newest captain—a gritty fighter willing to do whatever it takes to will his team to victory.
An experienced, established leader on the pitch and in the locker room, Rooney was officially named captain of D.C. United ahead of the match against the Colorado Rapids thanks to the very qualities his displayed in the final moments of the match. In his captaincy debut, the Black-and-Red’s number 9 led the squad to victory, scoring the game’s opener and his first career Major League Soccer goal in the 2-1 win at Audi Field. No stranger to the captain’s armband, Rooney will look to use his prior experiences as captain to drive the team forward by providing a commanding presence on the field and leading by example with United's younger players.
"He has been fantastic in every aspect," head coach Ben Olsen said of Rooney following Saturday's match. "He's been great in every way that we want him to be with this group, with his leadership and goalscoring ability. Hopefully, it can continue to get better."
A vocal player with immense knowledge for the game, Rooney has been tabbed captain on multiple occasions previously with Manchester United, Everton, and the England National Team. The all-time leading goalscorer for England and Manchester United, Rooney has captained 137 matches across all competitions. It is this experience and proven record of leadership that have given the Black-and-Red coaching staff confidence in tapping Rooney as the District's new captain.
“He has been around enough teams and in enough scenarios where he can help in the dressing room and also communicate to me,” Olsen told the Washington Post following Rooney's signing. “He has already embraced it, and his influence will grow as the year goes by and the guys get more comfortable with him and understand he is a selfless guy who cares about winning, no matter where he is.”
The longest captaincy stint in Rooney’s career came with Manchester United, where he led the line for the Red Devils in 106 matches. Scoring 38 goals and adding 22 assists in those games, the team went 63-22-21 when he wore the captain’s armband. Manager Louis Van Gaal named Rooney permanent Manchester United captain in August of 2014 after Nemanja Vidić left the club. He served as captain during a number of significant matches in the EFL Cup, Europa League, and FA Cup. In Manchester United’s 2016 FA Cup Championship victory, captain Rooney was named man of the match for his efforts in defeating Crystal Palace 2-1.
Rooney earned the title of captain again in the summer of 2014 from England manager Roy Hodgson, who called Rooney “the obvious choice, the one who certainly deserves it.” The English captain led the Three Lions in 21 matches, and the team went 16-2-3 in those contests. Scoring 13 goals and tallying three assists with the armband, Rooney was a crucial playmaking presence in World Cup qualifiers and the European Championships.
After returning to his boyhood club Everton in 2017, Rooney captained the Toffees in nine matches, his first coming in Europa League play that November. He scored a hat trick in his first Premier League captaincy with Everton in a 4-0 win over West Ham later that month. In his nine games as captain, he led Everton to a 5-2-3 record.
With a goal and three points in his first test as captain of the Black-and-Red, Rooney has set the pace for himself and the club to keep moving forward. He now has 58 career goals and 27 assists in the familiar role of wearing the armband. The next challenge for Rooney and United comes Saturday, August 4 at Saputo Stadium where the Black-and-Red take on the Montreal Impact, and while United have plenty of work to do to move up the Eastern Conference standings, Rooney has made it clear he's in the District to make an impact and push the club back toward its winning roots however he can, just as he showed on Colorado's final corner kick Saturday night.
"I have said this since I committed to the club, I want to win and I am vocal on and off the pitch. I want to win and what I can bring is my desire to win, and that's every day on the training pitch and every game."