Manchester United will face Championship side Derby County in the FA Cup fifth round knockout game at Pride Park on Thursday 5th March.
Derby’s days in the Premier League are far and away, as it’s been 12 years since they competed in the highest level, but the Thursday’s fixture still has more to it than ordinary FA Cup midweek match. Returning from his short visit to Everton and stateside DC United, Wayne Rooney will feature as Derby’s player-coach and face his old team, including a plethora of former teammates such as David de Gea, Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial – not to mention the manager Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer, who spent better part of four seasons with Rooney at Old Trafford.
Rooney featured for Manchester United for 559 times, scoring a club record 253 goals during his 13 seasons between 2004 and 2017. He has faced United twice after leaving, playing for his boyhood club Everton in 2017/2018 season, but failed to win so far. After a season long stint in the MLS, which saw Rooney score 11 goals and provide 7 assists in 28 games as a captain for DC United, the 120 times capped forward returned to England. Many were surprised there were no takers, or he wasn’t interested, in the Premier League, but Derby County’s offer for player-coach position was attractive enough.
In Championship, Rooney has shown he still has some gas left in his tank. Turning 35 this October, the former forward turned attacking midfielder has started 11 times for Derby, scoring three goals and assisting twice. He is yet to open scoring against his former club, but he’ll get his chances on Thursday night.
Derby’s season in the Championship has been a disappointment as they are 13th at the moment, but only eight points removed from the promotion playoffs. Manchester United are on the rise in the Premier League, having climbed to the fifth place and going eight games unbeaten in all competitions. The FA Cup remains the most likely option, if Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer is willing to hoist some silverware this season, although they are through to Europa League top 16 stage as well.