Oh, there are so many ways this could go…
Wayne Rooney is set to debut for Derby County on Wednesday, his first appearance in the Football League Championship following 491 Premier League appearances and 50 more in MLS.
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Throw in 187 more runs in the cups of Europe, and you’ve got a pretty good handle on why manager Phillip Cocu isn’t going to hesitate to give Rooney a chance to shine early and often.
“If a player with the qualities, career and the experience of Rooney (is available) you have to be very happy and glad he is here, so I don’t need a suspension to consider him in the first XI to be honest,” Cocu said.
Cocu says expectations should be lowered for the 34-year-old Rooney at the start of his tenure at Pride Park. From The Derby Telegraph:
“He’s fit, he can start but he will need a few games. Expectation will be high when he starts playing but we have to give him a few games to build up his minutes and get in the team. So maybe not perfect from the start, but it’s important he will get in the team as soon as possible so we get a certain shape in our team.”
Derby sits 17th in the Championship with 30 points, nine clear of the bottom three and nine back from the playoff places. Rooney joined the club in late November but wasn’t eligible to play for the side until January.
So what should we expect from Rooney?
Most former MLS players’ performances in the Championship are difficult to compare to Rooney. There’s the obvious trouble given he enters with one of the best resumes in English history. And usually the move is represented by youngsters, like Jack Harrison and DeAndre Yedlin or MLS bit players going home (often to levels below England).
Rooney was a force in Major League Soccer, no doubt, so it’s reasonable to expect he’ll deliver some of the goods at Derby. Thirty-two year old Steven Fletcher has 12 goals this season, Lewis Grabban (31) has 11, and that both Pablo Hernandez (34) and Lukas Jutkiewicz (30) put up double-digits in goals and assists last season.
No, this isn’t about whether Rooney will produce offense, or even if he’ll be able to stymy the red mist that saw him sent off twice at DC United. Admittedly, the last point is a bit more of a concern than the first given the fine margins in the Championship.
Promotion from the Championship would be a surprise and unexpected notch in Rooney’s belt. Not a lot of players have turned that trick having already minted their legend status.
Our prediction: Rooney helps the Rams to a bunch of wins and some decent additions in the January window to boot. He pitches in 8-10 goals and a half-dozen assists while the Rams make it to the playoffs. Anything after that is impossible to guarantee, which is why the Rams would’ve been better served not sitting 21 points off leaders Leeds United and West Brom.
But he is where he is, and he’s done more with less. And at the very least, this should be a lot of fun.