Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 8 December 2019

Wayne Rooney signing highlights inconsistent logic at Derby County

The deal to bring the veteran in as a player-coach appears to be an attempt to keep the Championship side in the limelight

Wayne Rooney's move to Derby County is a coup but also smacks of muddled thinking from the Championship club. Reuters
Wayne Rooney's move to Derby County is a coup but also smacks of muddled thinking from the Championship club. Reuters

So the record derby scorer will join Derby County in January. Wayne Rooney is the serial champion who could be off to the Championship, trading the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial for the statue of Steve Bloomer.

Having displayed a penchant for unpredictability on the pitch at times in the last two decades, he has now taken that to the transfer market.

Rooney’s pedigree is undeniable. He has a combined 306 goals for Manchester United and England, rendering him the record scorer for both, besides a status as the man with most goals in Manchester derbies.

By seeking to leave DC United, he may be putting family first. Like Steven Gerrard’s relatives before them, they first appeared tempted by the prospect of anonymity in the United States, but failed to settle and soon returned home.

A role as a player-coach shows an ongoing love affair with the game of a man who should have no financial need to work again.

So the more interesting question concerns Derby’s motivations. Rooney could contribute Championship goals, though so could many another.

His return of 25 in 45 games for a mediocre DC United team is healthy. He has lost the physical power that made him feel a force of nature, but not the competitive zeal that always formed part of his appeal.

And yet it is hard to escape the sense that Derby have been blinded by fame.

They seem to be savouring the reflected glory and if Frank Lampard’s spell was both profitable, with Derby pocketing £4 million (Dh17.8m) when their manager was hired by Chelsea, and almost produced promotion, owner Mel Morris may have appreciated the rise in profile.

Only Leeds United, under Marcelo Bielsa, attracted as much attention as ‘Frank Lampard’s Derby’ last season and if new manager Phillip Cocu, with a century of Netherlands caps to his name, represents another big name, Rooney’s is still bigger.

Morris is seeking investment in Derby and if Rooney has a commercial appeal, he also comes at a cost.

Derby had to sell their Pride Park stadium to Morris to pass Financial Fair Play and while the businessman insisted this week they will comply with regulations, the greatest boost to their finances would come not from recruitment, but a return to the top flight.

In June, in what was interpreted as a dig at Sir Alex Ferguson, Rooney cited Louis van Gaal, Cocu’s former Barcelona and Netherlands coach, as the best manager he played under.

Otherwise, however, it is hard to see common denominators.

It felt Cocu was sidelined in the shock deal. His reign began by beating Huddersfield Town on Monday, showcasing an ethos involving pace and pressing in the front four.

The younger Rooney offered that; approaching 34, he does not.

Derby have just added one young English coach to Cocu’s backroom staff, in Liam Rosenior; now they may have another, and one who lacks Rosenior’s extensive experience of playing in the Championship.

It is not the only area in which it is hard to detect a consistency of thought.

Certainly it is hard to detect any consistency of thought. Derby went from suggesting their only transfer business would be loans to spending a club record sum, rising to £10m, on Krystian Bielik.

Meanwhile, Kieran Dowell is only a month into his County career. One Evertonian was signed to play in the No 10 position and now another may follow.

Dowell promised to be the new Mason Mount or Harry Wilson, a burgeoning talent granted a platform to shine.

Instead, he could join the extensive list of players shunted aside to accommodate Rooney.

If stardust has eviscerated plans, only promotion would justify the change in strategy.

Updated: August 6, 2019 06:08 PM