This was picked out as one of the stories of the FA Cup fifth round as soon as the draw was made. Manchester United will be up against their all time club leading scorer as they travel to Pride Park to face Wayne Rooney and Derby County. The player-coach will be determined to give a good showing of himself and prove that he remains able to make an impact at the highest level. Meanwhile, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be wanting his side to progress comfortably, as there is an opportunity to challenge for this trophy.
It has been a year of transition for Derby County under Phillip Cocu. The Dutchman was expected to bring a free-flowing brand of football to the Championship, but he inherited problems in the summer and they have had to be more pragmatic. Since January, there has been a marked improvement in performances and results. This coincided with the arrival of Rooney as a player-coach. It was seen to be a marketing ploy by the club, with their shirt sponsor paying a portion of his wages. However, he has had a big impact on the pitch and there are shoots of recovery in the East Midlands.
The recent performances have been encouraging for Manchester United. The arrival of Bruno Fernandes has had a huge impact and they now look capable of having some success this season. They will believe that they can finish in the top four and challenge for a trophy. The FA Cup may be the lowest priority of the three competitions that they remain in, but the kind draw means that it has opened up to them. Solskjaer understands the values of the club and the importance that is placed on winning trophies. This could be an opportunity to lift his first as Manchester United manager.
Derby have scored in their last nine matches across all competitions.
David de Gea has now made seven errors that have led to goals since the beginning of last season. This is the joint most in the Premier League, alongside Bernd Leno, Jordan Pickford and Martin Dubravka.
This game will be focused on Wayne Rooney, as he comes up against the club that he starred at for most of his career. He is a Manchester United legend and it would be fitting should he have a big part to play on Thursday. It has been a positive start to life in the Championship, as he has made a positive impact at Derby County. The veteran has four goals and two assists across all competitions. He will be looking to improve that record against his former club. The danger he poses on the ball is obvious for all to see, as he can unlock a defence or threaten the goal from distance. Despite his age, he remains the best player in this Derby team and he will be relishing the opportunity to remind the country of his quality.
Manchester United will have a striker at the beginning of his career at the club hoping to take the headlines. Odion Ighalo was a shock transfer signing by the club in January. It was important that they made an attacking addition, due to injuries and the Nigerian was available. He may not have a proven record at the highest level, but he has shown positive signs so far. He has one goal and this is a chance for him to add to his tally. Derby aren’t the best team at the back and there will be space for United to exploit. This could be a breakout game for the loanee.
Duane Holmes is a doubt for the home side. Tom Huddlestone will be missing for the hosts.
There could be changes made ahead of the Manchester Derby, with the likes of Odion Ighalo and Jesse Lingard potential starters. Paul Pogba could make his return to the squad. Marcus Rashford remains on the treatment table.
This could make for an entertaining cup tie. Derby have shown good attacking intent since the turn of the year and they will take a fearless approach in this game. Rooney will take centre stage, which could bring out the best in him. His record since arriving back on these shores has been impressive and he has nothing left to prove. There should be goals in this one. Manchester United should have the quality to progress, but it won’t be an easy night for them.
Derby County 1-3 Manchester United