Rooney says he 'needed' MLS move as new challenge looms

Wayne Rooney of DC United listens during his introduction press conference at The Newseum on July 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Former England and Manchester United star Wayne Rooney said Monday (July 2) his move to D.C. United and Major League Soccer was the change he "needed" at the "right time for me."

The 32-year-old striker was unveiled Monday by D.C. United after leaving Premier League side Everton and agreeing to terms with the struggling US capital team on a 3 1/2-year deal worth a reported US$13 million (S$17.8 million).

"I think it's what I needed," Rooney said. "It was the right time for me."

Rooney is due to make his debut for the club on July 14 against Vancouver when United opens its new 20,000-seat stadium, US$200 million Audi Field.

"The game has grown so much over here, new stadiums, big crowds," Rooney said. "I'm excited by the project."

United chief executive Jason Levien dubbed Rooney "a living legend who is going to bring so much excitement to our fan base" and added, "To have Wayne lead us on the field into our new era is going to be glorious."

Rooney cannot sign a contract with United until the transfer window opens on July 10.

The Merseysider vowed he had not moved to MLS for a final lucrative payday.

"I'm not here to see out my last few years," Rooney said. "I'm here to compete and I'm here to win."

That could be tough at the start. United is at the bottom of MLS with two wins and 10 points from 13 matches.

"It's an exciting challenge," Rooney said. "I've watched the league from afar the past few years. We need to improve. That's clear to see. We need to get better results.

"This team has some young talent and they can improve with some guidance. They can learn some things from me and I can learn some things from them.

"New country, new culture, everything is new to me. I will embrace it. I look forward to the challenge. I'm delighted to be here." Rooney will take a break Tuesday to watch his former England squad face Colombia in a World Cup knockout match.

"The team is playing with a lot of freedom and energy. The future is bright whether it's this year or the next World Cup," Rooney said. "We've got to get behind them and give them our support." Rooney said he preferred Washington over New York or Los Angeles because of its slower pace.

"I've been to LA and New York. It's too hectic," Rooney said. "I need my space to get away from things when I need to and this seemed like a place where I could do that." .

Rooney feels the heat

United, which has won four MLS titles but none since 2004, will add more talent alongside Rooney in its bid to recapture the glory days.

"I'm sure there are more players going to come," Rooney said. "The club is moving in the right direction. The league has gotten better and the club has to get better and they have realized that.

"For the club to move forward, we will need to bring in a few more players. I'm sure the club is looking at that." United general manager Dave Kasper said preparing Rooney to be ready in two weeks is the first challenge.

"He's in his pre-season and he has to get fit in 100-degree heat to boot," Kasper said.

"It's hot," Rooney said. "The one thing I was concerned about was whether I would be able to breathe in the heat but it has been OK so far."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.