United untroubled as Rooney gets tributes but no triumph at Pride Park

By Ben Spratt 6 March 2020 4
United untroubled as Rooney gets tributes but no triumph at Pride Park

Wayne Rooney's hopes of a dream reunion lasted little more than half an hour on Thursday as Manchester United visited their record goalscorer's new employers.

Rooney was centre stage in an otherwise youthful Derby County team for the FA Cup fifth-round tie, dictating play from deep in midfield, a role that pitted him directly against Bruno Fernandes, United's latest superstar.

Former England captain Rooney, after crashing into Scott McTominay by the corner flag early on, provided the platform that allowed his younger colleagues to instead turn in the sort of energetic displays he was once renowned for in United red.

Max Bird, 19, Louie Sibley, 18, and Jason Knight, 19, hassled and harried Fernandes, who struggled to find the rhythm that has made him an instant hit at Old Trafford.

While Rooney kept passes ticking over as Derby held their own, even testing Sergio Romero with a low free-kick, Fernandes toiled.

The Portugal international ceded possession 14 times in the first 30 minutes and required treatment midway through the half after an awkward fall.

But a fortuitous opener took the game away from Rooney. Three Derby blocks in quick succession - the last from Fernandes - kept United at bay on the edge of the area, before Luke Shaw hammered a shot into the ground and the ball looped up after hitting Jesse Lingard's back on its way into the net.

Shaw, with an England place at Euro 2020 suddenly in his sights, then marched forward and slipped a pass into Odion Ighalo, who adjusted his feet to net United's second four minutes before half-time.

Rooney, an increasingly peripheral figure in his final months at United in 2018, was pushed into the background again, only to return to the fore to receive a yellow card for a foul on Fred.

The 34-year-old is still waiting for a first goal against United in seven attempts as an opposition player but has been booked in four of his five starts in such clashes.

There was more aggression following half-time, but Rooney kept his emotions in check to avoid an unseemly red card, and the Derby captain was at the genesis of bright moves that saw Martyn Waghorn and Jack Marriott go close.

Neither Rooney nor Derby could disrupt a serene night for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, though, and so the United fans launched into a lengthy serenade shortly before the hour-mark.

"He goes by the name of Wayne Rooney..."

The travelling supporters paused to acknowledge Fernandes, when an uncharacteristically sloppy outing concluded with his substitution, and then Ighalo after a ruthless third, but tributes to their 253-goal great were eventually reprised.

Rooney had vowed to celebrate if he scored against his former club, yet that only belatedly represented a serious threat as Sergio Romero touched over a stoppage-time free-kick.

There will surely be few further opportunities to soak up the United acclaim on the pitch, but the warm reception for a club legend merely meant Rooney had failed this time to end an unbeaten Red Devils run that stretches to nine matches.

Eliminated from the FA Cup, the Old Trafford favourite can at least now revert to his role as a supporter, no doubt desperate to see Solskjaer maintain a surge towards Wembley, claiming again the trophy Rooney lifted as captain in 2016.

About Author

Ben Spratt

Comment