DC is 5-10-2 for 17 points, tied with Chicago for the fewest in the 28-team league.
Team officials said they declined to comment. Paul Stretford, Rooney’s longtime agent, did not travel with Rooney but was due to arrive in Washington this week.
Those close to the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity to freely discuss the matter, said the sides are expected to soon sign a multi-year deal worth at least $1 million a year, which is the highest coaching salary in the club’s history would be.
Once the deal is finalized and he is granted a work permit, Rooney will take over the reins from interim manager Chad Ashton, who has replaced Hernán Losada for six games into the season. Ashton will continue to lead the team until then. Ashton is then expected to return to the assistant role he has filled for most of the past 15 years. Until he gets approval, which usually takes two to three weeks, Rooney will serve as the team’s advisor, one person said.
Ashton was briefed on the coaching decision over the weekend and via a virtual team meeting on Sunday, club officials updated players on Rooney’s imminent arrival.
Rooney – a Manchester United legend and the top scorer in England team history – retired in January 2021, shortly after being appointed manager of Derby County, an English second tier club. He resigned last month after Derby, plagued by financial problems, were relegated to the third tier.
Rooney plans to hire an assistant from England circles, one person said, and try to persuade European-based players he knows to do so during the transfer window – which is open until August 4 – or ahead of the 2023 season to sign United.
The targets, this person said, include Uruguayan 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 classification for high-end acquisitions.
Since Rooney left United after the 2019 season, he has remained friends with a number of DC players and team leaders who have consulted him on potential player signings on numerous occasions.
United have not qualified for the playoffs since Rooney’s second year in MLS. He had planned to play at least one more season in Washington, but because his family wasn’t comfortable living abroad, he and the club agreed to go their separate ways. It is unclear when his wife and four children will follow.
What also remained unclear on Sunday was whether United was complying with MLS’ diversity hiring policy, which requires at least two non-white candidates among finalists for technical staff positions. No other names have emerged publicly.
The league grants exceptions under “mitigating circumstances”. United didn’t have to follow that policy when Ashton replaced Losada as they temporarily filled the job.
An MLS spokesman said the league would provide an update on Monday.