Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer plans to stop club legend, Wayne Rooney from wounding Red Devils in FA Cup fifth round.
The coach is wary of the threat Wayne Rooney poses to Manchester United’s FA Cup hopes as the Derby forward looks to prove “there is still fight in an old dog”.
The Red Devils, who are on an eight-match unbeaten run in all competitions, head to Pride Park today for their fifth-round tie that will pit them against their all-time top-scorer.
Rooney scored a club-record 253 goals across 559 appearances during a trophy-laden spell at United between 2004 and 2017, before returning to boyhood club Everton and then joining Major League Soccer outfit DC United a year later.
The 34-year-old ended his 11/2-year spell in the United States to link up with Championship side Derby as a player-coach in January and is now preparing to gun down his former club.
Having played together at Old Trafford for three seasons until 2007, Solskjaer is all too familiar with what Rooney is capable of, even though he may no longer be the marksman he once was.
“He gave absolutely everything for this club and we all appreciate that,” the United manager said at his pre-match press conference yesterday. “But any goal he scores against us will be chalked off his goal tally! He doesn’t want to score too many of them.
“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 there is still fight in the old dog. We’ve got to be on our toes, don’t give him any space in and around the box or in midfield.”
Solskjaer also noted how Rooney evolved his game and likened him to former United midfielder Paul Scholes.
“At the latter end, when he played in midfield, you can see he’s got Scholesy-like passing range,” he added.
Asked whether England’s record scorer, with 53 goals from 120 appearances, was under-appreciated in some quarters, Solskjaer insisted he would always be held in the highest regard at United.
“He’s been a fantastic player for United… he’s the club’s top scorer, he’s won so many trophies,” the Norwegian added of the five-time Premier League champion, who lifted 11 other trophies as a Red Devil. “For me, I don’t think the fans underrated him…
“He will get a good reception from our away fans.”
Derby coach Shay Given has warned that Rooney will not hesitate to celebrate should he score.
The former Ireland and Newcastle goalkeeper told radio station talkSport: “It’s a huge game for everyone and it’s a sell-out so it’ll be a fantastic night. Wayne, he’s with us on Thursday so hopefully he can do some magic against United. He’s looking forward to the game and to play against his old team. It’s like the stars have aligned… it’s a bit of a fairy tale.”
Rooney agreed that he was prepared to break the hearts of the fans who once idolised him.
“It’s a big challenge for us here against a very good team,” he told club channel RamsTV yesterday.
“They will be favourites, so we just have to try and take our chances, and stay in the game.
“It is always strange if you play against a former team, but it’s football. 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.”