D.C. is 5-10-2 for 17 points, tied with Chicago for the fewest in the 28-team league.
Team officials said they did not want to comment. Paul Stretford, Rooney’s longtime agent, did not travel with Rooney but was expected to arrive in Washington this week.
Those close to the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter freely, said the sides are soon expected to finalize a multiyear deal worth at least $1 million annually, which would be the highest coaching salary in club history.
Once the deal is completed and he receives a work permit, Rooney will take 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 expected to return to the assistant role he has filled for most of the past 15 years. Until he receives the permit, which typically takes two to three weeks, Rooney will serve as a team consultant, one person said.
Ashton was informed of the coaching decision over the weekend, and via a virtual team meeting Sunday, club officials told the players of Rooney’s impending arrival.
Rooney — a Manchester United legend and the greatest scorer in English national team history — retired in January 2021, shortly after being named coach of Derby County, a second-flight English squad. He stepped down last month after Derby, riddled by financial problems, was relegated to the third division.
Rooney plans to hire an assistant from English circles, one person said, and attempt to persuade European-based players he knows to sign with United during the transfer window — which is open until Aug. 4 — or before the 2023 season.
Among the targets, that person said, is Uruguayan forward Luis Suárez, the 35-year-old former Liverpool, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid star who is a free agent. United has two open slots for designated players, the MLS classification for high-end acquisitions.
Since leaving United after the 2019 season, Rooney has remained friendly with some D.C. players and team executives, who have consulted with him multiple times on possible player signings.
United has not qualified for the playoffs since Rooney’s second year in MLS. He had planned to play in Washington at least one more season, but because his family wasn’t comfortable living abroad, he and the club agreed to part ways. It’s unclear when his wife and four children will join him here.
What also remained unclear Sunday was whether United complied with MLS’s diversity hiring policy, which requires at least two non-White candidates among the finalists for technical staff positions. No other names have surfaced publicly.
The league does grant waivers under “extenuating circumstances.” United did not have to follow that policy when Ashton replaced Losada because it was filling the job on an interim basis.
An MLS spokesman said the league would provide an update Monday.