The move comes as something of a surprise following Rooney’s dismal stint in charge of MLS side DC United, the club where he spent his final playing years. He served as head coach for just over a year, terminating his 18-month contract early and shying away from his reported option of a one-year extension. His time at Audi Field was underwhelming to say the least, as he graduates from the MLS with just 14 wins in 53 matches, failing to qualify for the MLS playoffs. His DC United side was also knocked out of the Leagues Cup in the round of 32 after narrowly avoiding group stage elimination.
Prior to his time in Washington, Rooney began his managerial career as a player-manager at Derby County. Faced with a team sat rock bottom of the Championship, Rooney did the bare minimum to keep the team safe from relegation, though the team was relegated regardless after spending most of the season in administration. Rooney was heavily criticised in his time at Derby, and was often accused of being a defeatist, disinterested in the fate of the club, while also failing to settle on a consistent tactical system or starting eleven.
Despite this markedly unimpressive managerial résumé, Birmingham City snapped up the Manchester United legend mere days after he returned to the UK, signing him to a three-and-a-half-year deal.
The decision to sack Eustace shocked fans and pundits alike, as the Blues sit just sixth in the Championship with 18 points from 11 matches played. The move can, however, be seen as a statement of intent, with Birmingham setting their sights on a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2011, when the side finished 18th and were relegated alongside Blackpool and West Ham.
Speaking in his first press conference for the club, Rooney told the media that “There is a lot of work to be done throughout the football club but the Premier League is where we want to get to. Its an ambition of mine and it is an ambition of the club’s, and we are putting everything in place to make sure we do that in the near future.”
Rooney is clearly shooting for the moon, but whether he can deliver on these promises remains to be seen. His latest appointment could prove to be crucial in refocusing the rudderless ship that is his managerial career to date.
As a player, Rooney recorded an impressive 313 club goals in 764 appearances over the course of a near 20-year career, playing primarily as a forward for Manchester United after breaking through at Everton at just 17 years old. He also performed consistently for England, racking up 53 goals in 120 appearances for the Three Lions.