Wayne Rooney interview: From player to manager at Derby County

Sky Sports exclusive: Wayne Rooney discusses his transition from player-coach to manager at Derby County - Watch Derby vs Nottingham Forest live on Sky Sports Football from 7pm on Friday night; Kick-off 7.45pm

preview image 2:01
Wayne Rooney discusses his transition from player-coach to manager at Derby County and the qualities he feels he brings to the role.

From the outside looking in, it may have appeared as if Wayne Rooney had been preparing to become a manager since joining Derby as player-coach last season.

From his perspective though, it's something that has been on his mind since he was a teenager.

"I've probably been thinking about it from when I was about 19 or 20," he tells Sky Sports ahead of his side's East Midlands derby clash with Nottingham Forest on Friday night. "I've always loved the tactical side of the game. I believe that's why I was always able to play in so many positions. I could take the information and perform it on the pitch.

"I always liked to look at the jobs of other players during games. It's something I always believed I would be good at, and that I wanted to do.

"I remember when I was younger, I knew that one day I would end up playing in midfield, so every day in training I would watch Paul Scholes and take as much information from his game as I could. I've studied the game for a long time, and believed with my qualities and understanding of the game that I could help the team there."

Live EFL

It wasn't just his team-mates he was watching for inspiration. Rooney was keeping an eye on his managers, too. At Manchester United in particular, he worked under some of the finest in history in Sir Alex Ferguson, Louis van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho.

"I think there is a mixture of different managers I've worked under, and I've always tried to spot their strengths," Rooney says. "But their weaknesses are just as important.

Also See:

"The obvious one is Sir Alex and the way he managed each player individually and the way he kept them all eager and ready to play. That was incredible.

"Then there was Van Gaal who was more tactical, and the way he set the team up not to concede goals was incredible, but there was not so much from a tactical point of view 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 take bits from each one. But the thing I need to do is be myself, and manage my team and the players the way they feel they need to be managed - both from a team point of view and individually."

preview image 1:04
Derby boss Wayne Rooney will lead his side into a big game against local rivals Nottingham Forest on Friday night and says he will tell his squad not to get as emotional about such occasions as he did in his playing days

One thing many of his managers wouldn't have had to deal with, though, was trying to coach players without the same level of ability as them.

Rooney, undoubtedly, was one of the greatest this country has ever produced, but he won't let that happen to him.

"I understand that not every player I manage is going to have the same ability that I had," he says. "So that's why I've studied the game for a long time. I have to manage this group of players and get the best out of their strengths and abilities, and gradually keep improving them as individuals and as a team.

"We could all sit here and say we could go into the best teams in the world and do a job, but for me, part of the reason for going to the USA was to experience something different to the Premier League. And then I wanted to come to the Championship and see another level of English football.

"I feel like I've got good experience of top players, but I also have a good experience of players who are trying to get to the top. And I feel like I can help them reach their potential."

Wayne Rooney

It was his belief in himself that made it such a straightforward choice to retire and take the Derby job on a permanent basis last month.

Rooney still loved playing the game, and he always had the aura of someone who would keep going until his body gave in, but when the opportunity came along to take the Derby job on permanently, he simply couldn't turn it down.

"It was always something which I felt I was working towards," he says. "I joined as player-coach. I'm an ambitious person and I felt if the right opportunity came along that I would retire from playing and have a go at management. I felt this was the right opportunity, and I felt I was the right person to help this club move forward.

"I came into the team and we did really well in the second half of last season, just missing out on the play-offs. So it wasn't really something I thought would happen so soon. But we didn't start the season well, and then obviously Phillip Cocu left.

"At that point, I felt knowing the club and the players that the opportunity was there for me to step in. I felt ready for it, and I felt there was a big chance I could help turn this club around and start moving it forwards.

"The club came to me and asked me to do it on my own, and then from there, I knew it was time to put my energy and focus into the team and I'd have to stop playing.

"I know I didn't bring the greatest of energy over the last year, I brought different qualities, but I felt this team needed energy and players with intensity to the game. At my age, I couldn't bring that.

"I could still play and influence games on the pitch, but I felt I could influence this team more off the pitch."

preview image 1:44
Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Huddersfield Town

Mourinho may have been 'the winner' in Rooney's description, but 'winner' is a word that unites all the great managers he talked about at Manchester United.

It is something he ultimately would like to be remembered for himself, too.

"When I stop doing this job, I'd like to be remembered as a winner," he says. "You obviously lose games and you don't win leagues every year, but I want to be a winner and install a winning mentality into my players, with a hunger and a belief to play for each other and to trust each other.

"I feel my biggest quality is how I manage the players, and how honest I am about whether they are doing well or not, what they need to improve upon, and whether they have trained or played well or not. And keeping that freshness and hunger every day in them.

"I've gone from the dressing room to the coaches' room. In my first meeting, I made it clear that if you want to play for this football club that you have to play for me and work hard, and if you don't, you can leave the club.

"Maybe they weren't expecting that from me, but it was a message I had to give when my role changed to manager."

Image: Rooney and his coaching staff at Derby

Derby have climbed away from the bottom three in the Championship, and Rooney's goals this season remain realistic.

But in the future? He feels anything is possible.

"We've made huge strides forward and we've performed better," he says. "We're getting results and we're moving up the table, and I think there has been a huge shift in mentality. The players believe now that they're a very good team and that they can win against any side in the Championship.

"We know how to win games in different ways, too. That is a big change for us since I've been here. We can have a fight and win that way, or play good football and win. They've adapted really well to different styles.

"In the short term, it's about staying in this league. I know we've created daylight but it's a strange league and anything can happen."

"In the future, we know that if we can get the recruitment right, with myself and the coaching staff that we'll give ourselves a great chance of promotion.

"That's my ambition for the club."

When it comes to Rooney, his ambitions and his achievements are invariably intertwined. For Derby, under his charge, things are only looking up.

Win £250,000 on Tuesday!

Win £250,000 on Tuesday!

Do not miss your chance to land the £250,000 in Tuesday's Super 6 round. Play for free, entries by 6:00pm.

Around Sky