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Wayne Rooney is a megastar. More importantly, he wants to coach.

“We can really get this club back to successful ways again,” Wayne Rooney said at his introductory news conference with D.C. United on Tuesday. “It’s going to take a lot of really hard work, but that’s what I’m here to do.” (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Wayne Rooney had already discussed how, when he inevitably wants to pull what’s left of his hair out because of the technique or work ethic of one of his new D.C. United players — even captain Steve Birnbaum — he will berate him. There are, as Rooney said, “demands, principles that the players need to stick by.” He is here to enforce them.

“There’s going to moments where he’s going to be a bit frustrated, because I will be shouting and putting him in his place,” Rooney said Tuesday, nodding back at Birnbaum, seated on a stage behind him. “That’s part of the job.”

Why Wayne Rooney took a ‘risk’ and ended up D.C. United’s new boss

It is apparent, even as Rooney spent fewer than 10 minutes talking about his new position as United’s coach, that merely being Wayne Rooney is a job. He is a celebrity of the first order, worthy of breathless coverage in the Fleet Street tabloids back home in England. So his introductory news conference couldn’t end without a glimpse of what that’s like on a day-to-day basis. As United officials tried to cut off the session, a reporter who “came all the way from London,” she said, followed up a question about whether Rooney’s wife was supportive of this move to the United States with a question about whether Rooney’s wife was really supportive of this move to the United States.

“So first, I think your first question, I’ve answered, so I’d appreciate if you’d listen,” Rooney said sharply. “It’s always trying to get different answers out of a just-asked question.”

This has been his life probably since he was 16, when he debuted with English club Everton, and certainly since he was 18, when he transferred to that behemoth, Manchester United. What Rooney tried to present himself as Tuesday afternoon at Audi Field, though, wasn’t some sort of above-the-lowly-MLS soccer icon. Rather, he’s a lunch-pail-toting bloke from Liverpool trying to take a blue-collar approach to climbing each rung of his sport’s coaching ladder.

“We can really get this club back to successful ways again,” Rooney said. “It’s going to take a lot of really hard work, but that’s what I’m here to do.”

That all makes Jason Levien, United’s CEO, think back to when the club brought in Rooney four years ago — as a player. Back then, Levien and club officials asked Rooney how he would like to be introduced. The answer was simple: “Let’s get to work.”

“That was his mantra,” Levien said.

There was magic in Wayne Rooney’s feet. Is there magic in his mind?

Levien, who served as a player agent before investing first in the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and then in United a decade ago, understands the potential pitfalls of hiring a coach who not only instantly becomes the most recognizable figure for your franchise — and it’s not close — but also could be of iffy commitment given that, when he was a player here in 2018-19, he returned to England essentially because his family wasn’t happy.

“We asked a lot of questions,” Levien said Tuesday. “I’ve seen situations where things like this haven’t worked out.”

Levien and his team also came armed with what they had learned about Rooney when he made his first foray here. There is that “let’s get to work” attitude that is so admirable from a figure who has achieved as much as Rooney has — more goals than anyone, ever, for both Manchester United and the English national team.

“I think he has a unique soccer IQ,” Levien said.

So, then, the family. Yes, he was pressed on the question — to his frustration. But the commitment, it has to be there.

“I think I’ve seen that back in England as well,” Rooney said. “Of course, any major decision I make like this is discussed with my wife. My family for the time being will stay back in England. … That’s not an issue whatsoever from a family point of view.”

(To be clear: When reading quotes from Rooney, replace each “my” with “me” to get a sense of what he sounds like. He might be addressing D.C. soccer fans in Washington, but cut him open and he’ll forever be Liverpool to the core. The Scouse accent is here whether he’s discussing his four kids, his optimal United lineup or his preferences for his tea or his pint. Even that’s a joy!)

Back to the commitment: Levien said part of Rooney’s request as he was becoming coach was to find housing within five minutes of the club’s still-new Leesburg training headquarters. With his family coming stateside only for visits, Rooney wants to room with one of his assistant coaches.

“He wants to be able to talk soccer deep into the night,” Levien said. “He’s even talked about having room for players to stay with him.”

Now, where the celebrity might be a plus: Levien admits United has struggled to land prominent international players. Welsh star Gareth Bale, I suggested?

“We tried to get Bale,” Levien said.

Bale now plays for Los Angeles FC.

What if Rooney had already been with D.C.? Who knows?

“I think he can draw players here,” Levien said. “I think players will want to play for us because Wayne is the coach.”

Make that a massive TBD — but fun to find out.

These legendary players, they don’t always work out as coaches. This isn’t perfectly analogous, but I remember talking to Washington Nationals who played under Frank Robinson, a Hall of Famer as a player if there ever was one and a tough old soul as a manager. The players revered Frank. But they couldn’t always relate to him. Some of what Frank could do as a hitter, mere mortals couldn’t hope to ever replicate. They almost spoke different languages.

That is part of what was refreshing about Rooney’s succinct introduction Tuesday. He is here because he is Wayne Rooney, international superstar, for sure. But he is approaching this as a step in his coaching career, a career he is not building on presumptiveness and privilege but brick by brick.

“I think he’s all-in on what he said up there,” Levien said, “which is developing himself as a manager and to grow.”

If United is the venue for that growth and it results in a return to prominence for a franchise that badly needs one, then who loses? A legend has returned, albeit in a new role. Now, let’s get to work.

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