‘Very good with people’: 15 quotes to explain Rooney’s managerial style

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Wayne Rooney smiling whilst managing Derby County v QPR, Pride Park 29 November 2021. Credit: PA Images
Wayne Rooney smiling whilst managing Derby County v QPR, Pride Park 29 November 2021. Credit: PA Images

Wayne Rooney may be Manchester United and England’s record goalscorer but he’s also been establishing a reputation as one of the game’s most promising young managers – and is on the verge of moving to MLS. 

Rooney was appointed as interim manager at Derby in November 2020 and took the reigns on a permanent basis in January 2021.

He kept the Championship club in the second tier but, after having 21 points deducted, the Rams eventually succumbed to relegation last season but this hasn’t stopped Rooney from attracting admirers for the way he handled a difficult situation at Derby.

After leaving the club this summer, Rooney has already secured his next managerial appointment with MLS side DC United – the club he scored 25 goals in 52 matches for between 2018 and 2019.

We’ve identified 15 quotes about Rooney during his nascent managerial career.

Michael Dawson

“He’s had to put up with everything possible from a first job and people say becoming a good manager is all about experience,” Dawson told the Daily Express. “He can’t get any more experience with what he’s been through.

“A points deduction, not being able to sign players, being rock bottom and trying to still provide that belief. With Phil Jagielka and Curtis Davies he’s got a great spine in the defence and good characters. That can only help.

“I played with Rooney and against him. He has such incredible energy and just loves the game, and seemed like a kid playing in the park at times. Occasionally players who you think are going to go into management don’t and vice versa.

“It’s about getting the opportunities, and he got that at Derby thanks to being a player.”

Steve McClaren

Rooney made a good first impression at Derby, gaining 31 points from a possible 54 by mid-February 2021 and winning the praise of former Derby manager Steve McClaren.

McClaren, who managed England between 2006 and 2007, told talkSPORT: “He’s responsible for the team, the tactics, the results and he’s brought clarity.

“He manages the situation, he manages it very, very well. He delegates – he lets the coaches coach, he trusts his staff, he trusts his players and behind the scenes he’s got a fantastic knowledge of football.

“He’s been studying the game as a player and also for this role as a manager. He’s been studying for years.

“The great strength of Wayne is his emotional intelligence. The way he communicates with individuals around the training ground, with staff, the way that he changes the team, he talks to every player – if he’s not going to play them he’ll pull them in his office one-on-one and give them the reason why.

“He’s so honest yet so humble. He’s got a great way with people and it’s working. The players are responding, it’s brought clarity and it’s getting results.”

Derby’s form declined thereafter, but Rooney had already demonstrated plenty of prized managerial qualities.

Park Ji-Sung

United cult hero Park told Goal: “I believe Wayne can make it. He had great experiences from a very young age and he also had many difficult moments in his career that he overcame eventually.

“For sure, he has great leadership skills as well. So, I believe he can be United’s manager in the future.”

Ray Parlour

“Rooney has done the best he can with the resources he’s got,” Parlour said when asked about Derby’s plight on talkSPORT in December 2021.

England's Wayne Rooney and David Beckham celebrate scoring against Switzerland at Cidade de Coimbra, Portugal, June 2004. Credit: PA Images
England's Wayne Rooney and David Beckham celebrate scoring against Switzerland at Cidade de Coimbra, Portugal, June 2004. Credit: PA Images

READ: Yearning for the Wayne Rooney that we all fell in love with at Euro 2004

Rio Ferdinand

Ferdinand was quoted by The Daily Mail as saying: “Rooney’s not scared of sharing his opinion, which is a good thing. He can be direct. He can be hard to read sometimes.

“He’s been very lucky. Not many people get to play under the managers he has, managers who have achieved so much.

“Ferguson, Van Gaal, Mourinho, Capello. Over the years he will have taken elements from their coaching styles.”

Ben Olsen

Olsen coached Rooney at DC United and told The Guardian in March 2021: “For the last few years he really started to change his focus and think about being a manager, how he’s going to formulate his own team.

“What I would say about Wayne is he’s football mad. He’s authentic. He was a great leader in the locker room and from my dealings with him he loves the chess aspect of the game.

“Those principles made him so successful throughout his career and give him a very good foundation.

“I look fondly on the time we had at DC United. In some ways, he pushed me as a manager – challenging me. He had a nice balance of asking questions and being inquisitive about the way I go about things or the league as a whole.

“He seemed to absolutely love the game – that’s a good place to start. He was always evaluating: ‘This is maybe what I would be doing in this scenario.’ He probably disagreed with a lot of what we did, but he always came in and trained at a very high level.”

Shay Given

“Having worked alongside Wayne Rooney at Derby, I think he’s done a steady job since he’s been in charge of the club,” he said.

“The amount of things going on behind the scenes that people don’t see; it seems every day you’re putting a fire out to keep the ship afloat. He’s gone through more in one year of management than some guys see in 10 years.

“It’s mad how football changes and things move so quickly, but Wayne’s an ambitious guy who wants to be coaching at a top level.

Elias Burke

Burke, the Derby County correspondent for The Athletic explained how Rooney’s reliable set of defenders allowed him to implement his own tactical style last season.

“This [the presence of Curtis Davies and Jagielka] has allowed Wayne Rooney to build his attack in confidence that his defence has the experience and knowledge of how to navigate tricky situations,” Burke told tactics website Breaking the Lines in February 2022.

“Rooney prefers to play a high line and control possession in the opposition’s half, leaving large spaces in behind – a tough ask for older defenders – but they have proved more than a match for quick forwards.”

“They’re supported in the midfield by Liam Thompson and Max Bird, who combine diligent defensive work with incisive line-breaking passing.

“In recent weeks, the tandem of Thompson and Bird has worked well as their contrasting styles – Thompson is a water carrier, Bird is a deep-lying playmaker – have allowed both to focus on their positives, with the other cancelling out their shortcomings.”

Despite failing to keep Derby in the Championship, there were signs of Rooney’s philosophy as a manager coming through.

George Evans

“He’s fantastic, I can’t speak highly enough of him,” Evans told NewsatDen shortly after leaving Derby for Millwall in January 2021.

“He’s had the best career, we watched him as kids growing up and who better to learn from?

“In terms of man-management he’s a great guy, he’ll tell you what you’re doing well, what you need to improve on.

“He was very clear in his messages to me and I found that really good.”

David Moyes

“He’s going into a different world now completely and while not all the best players have gone on to be the best managers, Wayne’s love of the game and his drive and attitude will give him every chance of being successful,” Moyes said when Rooney was revealed as Derby’s new manager in January 2021.

Liam Rosenior

Speaking with Derby’s official website in October 2021, Rosenior said: “The best thing I can say about Wayne is that he has been himself; he is always genuine and authentic to himself.

“He has had a lot of experience over his career both on and off the pitch, absolutely everything, but he has remained calm, measured and in control.

“Wayne is intelligent with people. He cares about them as well and he has been able to show that side to him in such a difficult time.

“He doesn’t change when he’s doing a press conference, when he is doing a team talk or when he is addressing the staff in terms of a tough moment when the club went into administration.”

Wayne Rooney, Pt. I

“I think there is a mixture of different managers I’ve worked under, and I’ve always tried to spot their strengths,” Rooney told Sky Sports in 2021.

“But their weaknesses are just as important. The obvious one is Sir Alex and the way he managed each player individually and the way he kept them all eager and ready to play. That was incredible.

“Then there was Van Gaal who was more tactical, and the way he set the team up not to concede goals was incredible, but there was not so much from a tactical point of view going forward.

“Jose Mourinho was a winner, he would do anything to win. So it’s been different with all the managers I’ve worked under, and I can take bits from each one.

“But the thing I need to do is be myself, and manage my team and the players the way they feel they need to be managed – both from a team point of view and individually.”

Chris Eagles

Eagles, who played alongside Rooney at Manchester United, told The Guardian: “Wayne understood the game. If you watched him when he was at United, he was learning different positions.

“People will listen, respect him and [remember] how and where he played: centre-forward, No 10, midfield. He just knows what is happening. Wayne’s done everything in the game.

“He was very good at organising, things like that. You could always see it in him to become a manager because he’s good with people. A lot of management is about managing the players and Wayne’s definitely got that in him.”

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney kisses his badge after he is booked for a challenge on Everton's Mikel Arteta, Goodison Park, Liverpool, 25 October 2008 Credit: PA Images
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney kisses his badge after he is booked for a challenge on Everton's Mikel Arteta, Goodison Park, Liverpool, 25 October 2008 Credit: PA Images

READ: When Rooney kissed the Man Utd badge vs Everton not once, but twice

Wayne Rooney, Pt. II

“Very calm, actually,” Rooney told Alan Shearer when asked about his man-management style in an interview for The Athletic in January 2022.

“I’m honest with the players. In our first meeting, I said to them, ‘You’ll have your days off to be with your families but, when you are at work, if you’re not prepared to work hard and do it like I want, you can leave now’.

“These are my demands, what I expect, whether that’s the best player, the oldest player, the youngest player, anyone.”

Paul Ince

“When I was given the job at Reading a lot of people raised their eyebrows, and that was probably a similar situation with Wazza [Wayne Rooney] at Derby,” Ince said after Reading avoided relegation at Derby’s expense in April 2022.

“What he’s shown is that he’s more than capable of being a top, top manager. To get to this point of the season and just get relegated now shows what a great job he’s done.

“When these awards come out at the end of the season, they’ll probably give it to Marco Silva at Fulham, but it should go to Wayne Rooney or Nathan Jones.

“The job they’re doing on the budget and financial situation is a no-brainer. That shows how well Wayne has done as a manager.”

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