Howard and Rooney were team-mates at Manchester United for two seasons before the American moved to Rooney’s old club, Everton, as the two then became opponents for the next decade in the Premier League.
The goalkeeper moved back to MLS in 2016 and now Rooney has been reported to be in talks to do the same, though no deal has been finalized.
Given that Rooney is now 32, and suffered through a difficult season with Everton, there have been some skeptics that doubt the move is a wise one for D.C. United.
However, Howard doubts age has anything to do with it, insisting a player’s mentality is what decides his success in MLS.
“The idea isn’t whether a player is of a certain age; it’s whether they are motivated and whether they are driven to come here and perform, help a team and ultimately buy into it,” Howard told the Washington Post.
“Not, ‘I’m coming here for vacation, I like the weather,’ but really roll their sleeves up and become a part of the team. That is all that matters.
“The age thing means nothing, but people hang on it. Know the man, understand how he operates, and when you strip back those layers, you’ll start to realize there is a top player there.”
That's not to say Howard hasn't noticed Rooney’s decline. However, the goalkeeper believes that there’s no question Rooney will make the capital side a better team, though it will fall on D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen to find the right spot for the veteran.
“Wayne will be fine,” Howard said. “When a player starts to get older, you want to utilize him in the right positions to get the most out of them. So that will be up to Benny Olsen to figure out where he bests suits the team.
“But make no mistake: Having Wayne Rooney makes you a better team.”
Howard also dismissed the idea that MLS players will be overawed by a Premier League veteran who has had Rooney’s track record of club success.
“He will be challenged. This is a tough league,” Howard said. “People won’t care what his name is. There will be a lot of respect, but they are going to try to make it difficult for him. That, I think, will bring the best out of Wayne.”