(Reuters) - Wayne Rooney is determined to push his body to the limit to meet the demands of the English Championship after signing a deal to join Derby County from MLS side DC United as player-coach in January, the former England captain said on Tuesday.
In a major coup for the second-tier club, Derby said the 33-year-old had signed an initial 18-month contract with the option of another year and would also work as a coach with the first team and academy as he chases his dream of becoming a manager.
Asked at a news conference why he accepted the challenge, ex-Manchester United and Everton striker Rooney said: “That’s football, it’s what I’ve done all my life and what I love. Until my body says I can’t do it anymore, I’ll keep doing it.
“We’ll have to wait and see (how I manage my body). I’m a player who knows my body. I’m experienced enough to know that if I can’t play in a game to sit out that game. But I feel good, I’ve played the whole season in the States.”
Rooney, an admirer of Dutchman Louis van Gaal’s coaching methods as manager at Old Trafford, said he could not resist the opportunity to have a similar learning experience under Derby boss Phillip Cocu, who also hails from the Netherlands.
“The opportunity to come back to England and play but also to take up a coaching role and work under Phillip was too great for me to turn down,” Rooney added.
“There were other clubs making offers and enquiring about me but I made the decision to come here and that was it, I wasn’t going to go back on my decision.”
Rooney, record scorer for his country and Manchester United, is the latest member of the so-called “Golden Generation” of England players to take their first steps towards management.
He will be following in the footsteps of the likes of Derby’s former boss Frank Lampard and Rangers manager Steven Gerrard. Lampard has since taken over at his old club Chelsea, having guided Derby to the playoff final last season.
Rooney, who had two years left on his contract at DC United, said he was fully focused on giving his all for the club in the remainder of the season and hoped to deliver an MLS Cup.
“It’s only fair to DC United (to move in January). They’ve been fantastic to me,” Rooney said.
“We’re in a good position in the league and with nine games left of the season I think it would be disrespectful to them if I didn’t finish the season and try and help us get into the playoff spots and win a trophy.”
DC United are fourth in the MLS Eastern Conference. The top seven clubs from each conference qualify for the playoffs.
Derby owner Mel Morris said Rooney, who will wear the number 32, had already created “widespread and significant” commercial opportunities for the Midlands club.
“On the back of Wayne joining, we’ve been offered a record-breaking sponsorship deal with our principal shirt sponsor, 32Red,” Morris said.
“This is clearly an exciting signing for us and Wayne’s presence will further enhance the club’s standing and its ability to perform both on and off the pitch.”
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar/Hugh Lawson/Ken Ferris