From the outside, it might look like Wayne Rooney has been preparing to become a manager since joining Derby last season as player-coach.
From his point of view, it’s something that has preoccupied him since his youth.
“I probably thought about it when I was 19 or 20,” he told Sky Sports ahead of his team’s derby clash with Nottingham Forest on Friday night. “I’ve always loved the tactical side of the game. I think that’s why I was always able to play in so many positions. I could take the information and execute it on the field.”
“I’ve always enjoyed looking at other players’ jobs during games. I’ve always believed that I was good at it and that’s what I wanted to do.”
“I remember when I was younger I knew that one day I would play in midfield. That’s why I watched Paul Scholes every day in training and took as much information as possible from his game. I studied the game for one For a long time and with my qualities and my understanding of the game I believed that I could help the team there. “
Friday, February 26th, 7:00 p.m.
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It wasn’t just his teammates he was looking for inspiration. Rooney also kept an eye on his managers. At Manchester United in particular, he worked under Sir Alex Ferguson, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho among the best in history.
“I think there’s a mix of different managers I’ve worked under and I’ve always tried to identify their strengths,” says Rooney. “But their weaknesses are just as important.
“The obvious is Sir Alex and the way he led each player individually and how he kept them all eager and ready to play. That was amazing.
“Then there was Van Gaal who was more tactical and the way he set up the team to avoid conceding goals was incredible, but from a tactical point of view there wasn’t that much 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 relieve everyone. But what I have to do is myself be and make it. ” My team and the players feel they need to be managed – both from a team perspective and individually. “
One thing that many of his managers didn’t have to worry about was trying to coach players without the same skills as them.
Rooney was undoubtedly one of the greatest this country has ever produced, but he won’t let that happen.
“I understand that not every player I manage will have the same skills as me,” he said. “That’s why I’ve studied the game for a long time. I have to manage this group of players and get the most out of their strengths and skills and gradually improve them as individuals and as a team.”
“We could all sit here and say we could go to the best teams in the world and do a job, but for me part of the reason for America was to experience something other than the Premier League. And then I wanted to go to the championship to come and see a different level of English football.
“I feel like I’ve had good experiences with top players, but I’ve also had good experiences with players trying to get to the top. And I feel like I can help them reach their potential.”
It was his belief in himself that made it so easy to retire last month and take the derby job permanently.
Rooney still loved playing the game, and he always had the aura of someone who kept going on until his body gave out, but when the opportunity to take the derby job on permanently he just couldn’t do it reject.
“It was always something I was working towards,” he says. “I started out as a player-coach. I’m an ambitious person and I felt that if the right opportunity came, I would retire from playing and try management. I felt that this was the right opportunity and me felt that I was the right one. ” right person to help this club move forward.
“I got into the team and we did very well in the second half of last season. We just missed the play-offs. So I didn’t think it was going to happen anytime soon. But we didn’t start the season . ” Well, and then Phillip Cocu obviously left.
“At that point, I felt like I knew the club and the players, that there was an opportunity for me to step in. I felt ready for it and I felt that there was a great opportunity to turn this club around and move forward move.” .
“The club came to me and asked me to do it myself. From then on, I knew it was time to put my energy and focus into the team and I had to stop playing.
“I know that last year I didn’t bring the greatest energy with me, I brought different qualities with me, but I had the feeling that this team needed energy and players with intensity for the game. At my age I couldn’t bring that with me. “
“I could still play and influence games on the field, but I felt like I could influence this team more outside the field.”
Mourinho may have been “the winner” in Rooney’s description, but “winner” is a word that unites all of the great managers he’s talked about at Manchester United.
It’s something that he ultimately wants to remember fondly.
“If I stop doing this job, I want to be remembered as a winner,” he says. “They obviously lose games and don’t win leagues every year, but I want to be a winner and give my players a winning mentality with hunger and a belief that they play for and trust each other.”
“I think my greatest quality is how I treat the players and how honest I am, whether they do well or not, what they need to improve, and whether they have trained or played well or not. And that freshness to preserve and. ” Hunger in them every day.
“I went from the locker room to the coaching hall. In my first meeting I made it clear that you have to play for me and work hard if you want to play for this football club and if you don’t.” t, you can leave the club.
“Maybe they didn’t expect me to, but it was a message I had to give when my role became manager.”
Derby has moved away from the last three in the championship and Rooney’s goals this season remain realistic.
But in the future? He believes anything is possible.
“We have made great strides and performed better,” he says. “We’re getting results and we’re moving to the top. I think the mentality has changed a lot. The players now believe that they are a very good team and that they can win against any team in the championship.” .
“We also know how to win games in different ways. It’s been a big change for us since I’ve been here. We can fight and win that way or play good football and win. They have adapted very well to different styles .
“In the short term, it’s about staying in this league. I know we created daylight, but it’s a strange league and anything can happen.”
“We know that we will give ourselves a great chance of promotion in the future if we can get the right recruitment with me and the coaches.”
“That is my ambition for the club.”
When it comes to Rooney, his ambitions and accomplishments are always intertwined. It’s only looking good for Derby under his responsibility.