Wayne Rooney will face his former club when Manchester United travel to Pride Park to face Derby in the FA Cup fifth Round on Thursday night.
United’s all-time leading scorer, who bagged 253 goals in his time at Old Trafford, left in 2017 after 13 years at the club and spent a season back at boyhood club Everton before heading to DC United in Major League Soccer.
In January the man who won 12 major honours with the Reds returned to England to take up a player-coach role alongside Phillip Cocu at Derby and now faces his old side in something of a romantic reunion.
This will be the first time Rooney has faced United since playing for Everton in a 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park in January 2018, while the striker has never scored in his six appearances against the Red Devils.
“It is always strange if you play against a former team, especially as I was at Manchester United for such a long time, but it’s football,” Rooney told Derby County’s club website.
“I love Manchester United and I want the team to do well and win, but for these 90 or 120 minutes, I want them to lose and for us to go through to the next round.”
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose side are currently unbeaten in their last eight games, believes Rooney still poses a threat and has warned his side not to be complacent as they seek a sixth consecutive FA Cup quarter-final appearance.
“He’s a threat, in and around the box, set plays, and of course this game Wayne will show what he can do and he wants to prove that there’s still fight in an old dog,” he said. “We’ve got to be on our toes, don’t give him any space in and around the box or in midfield.”
The Rams will be without Duane Holmes, who is out with an ankle injury, while Tom Huddlestone is also sidelined with a hamstring problem.
Krystian Bielik is missing for the rest of the season after a serious knee injury he suffered in December, but Ikechi Anya is close to regaining full-fitness after a long-term calf injury with teenagers Louie Sibley and Morgan Whittaker drafted into the squad for the visit of the 2016 winners.
As for Manchester United, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James are set to miss the trip with what manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described as, “little niggles.”
Marcus Rashford remains out with a back problem along with long-term absentee Paul Pogba, while Tim Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe stepped up their return to fitness for United’s U23s on Monday.
Derby have lost their past eight FA Cup meetings with United, most recently in the third round in 2018 and the last time they beat the Red Devils in the competition was in the quarter-finals of the 1896-97 campaign.
But they will be encouraged by the fact that the last time the two sides met in any competition, the Rams eliminated United from last season’s Carabao Cup after coming through a penalty shootout at Old Trafford.
Cocu’s side will have it all to do, however, with Manchester United reaching the quarter-finals in each of the past five campaigns while Derby are looking to reach the last-eight for the first time since 1998-99 after losing each of their past five fifth-round matches.