DC is 5-10-2 for 17 points, tied with Chicago for the least in the 28-team league.
Team officials said they did not wish to comment. Paul Stretford, Rooney’s longtime agent, did not travel with Rooney but was due to arrive in Washington this week.
People familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter freely, said the parties are expected to soon finalize a multi-year agreement worth at least $1 million a year, which would would be the highest coaching salary in the club’s history.
Once the deal is done and he receives a work permit, Rooney will take over the reins from interim coach Chad Ashton, who replaced Hernán Losada six games into the season. Ashton will continue to guide the team until then. Ashton is then set to return to the assistant role he has held for the better part of the past 15 years. Until he receives the permit, which usually takes two to three weeks, Rooney will serve as a team consultant, one person said.
Ashton was briefed on the manager’s decision over the weekend, and via a virtual squad meeting on Sunday, club officials informed the players of Rooney’s imminent arrival.
Rooney – a Manchester United legend and the English national team’s all-time greatest goalscorer – retired in January 2021, shortly after being named manager of Derby County, an England second-flight side. He resigned last month after financially troubled Derby were relegated to the Third Division.
Rooney plans to hire an assistant from English circles, a person has claimed, and try to persuade European-based players he knows to sign with United during the transfer window – which is open until August 4 – or before the 2023 season.
Among the targets, the person said, is Uruguay striker Luis Suárez, the 35-year-old former Liverpool, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid star who is a free agent. United have two open slots for Designated Players, the MLS Ranking for high-end acquisitions.
Since leaving United after the 2019 season, Rooney has remained friends with some DC players and team managers, who have consulted him on several occasions about possible player signings.
United have not qualified for the playoffs since Rooney’s second year in MLS. He had planned to play in Washington for at least one more season, but since his family was not comfortable living overseas, he and the club agreed to part ways. It is unclear when his wife and four children will join him here.
What also remained unclear on Sunday was whether United had complied with MLS’s hiring diversity policy, which requires at least two non-white candidates among the finalists for technical staff positions. No other names have surfaced publicly.
The league grants waivers in “extenuating circumstances.” United did not have to follow this policy when Ashton replaced Losada as he was in the job on an interim basis.
An MLS spokesperson said the league will provide an update on Monday.