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Starting XI: Derby County vs. Manchester United

A Rooney reunion in the FA Cup

Sheffield Wednesday v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship - Hillsborough Photo by Dave Howarth/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

Everything that you need to know ahead of Thursday night’s match:

(1) Manchester United escaped Goodison Park on Sunday with a 1-1 draw after VAR ruled out Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s apparent late winner. DCL earlier put Everton in front by blocking a careless David De Gea kick into the open United goal. Bruno Fernandes, though, came to the rescue with a long-range equalizer shortly after the half hour mark. This result leaves Manchester United in fifth place, ahead of resurgent Wolves on just GD.

(2) De Gea’s gaffe reignited questions over the goalkeeper’s concentration — and some reports even have the club considering his future as No. 1. Either way, expect Sergio Romero between the sticks on Thursday at Pride Park for this cup tie.

(3) In surprising news, Paul Pogba will return to training this week and might be ready for the Manchester derby at the weekend. If not, look for him to take the field at Tottenham Hotspur on March 15. Pogba has barely featured this season after suffering through several nagging ankle injuries. With Bruno already firing on all cylinders, Pogba’s imminent return should send Manchester United’s midfield into the stratosphere.

(4) Although Anthony Martial returned on Sunday with a clean bill of health after sitting out last week’s win over Club Brugge, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer chose not to risk Daniel James. The boss on his injured winger:

He got a knock [against Club Brugge], but he’ll be fine for Thursday or definitely next weekend. It’s not too much to worry about.

(5) Phillip Cocu took over at Derby County last summer after Frank Lampard jumped ship for Chelsea. The Rams came agonizingly close to promotion to the Premier League in 2018/19, before falling just short in the playoff final. This season, though, it’s been a very different story. Derby County sit 13th in the Championship with a thoroughly mediocre return of 12 wins, 12 draws, and 12 losses. That being said, they’re still just eight points off the playoffs.

(6) Cocu on his side’s excitement for Thursday:

It is a great game and I am looking forward to it, as we all are. It is sold out and the motivation is sky high in the team. We are going to try to make it a great game and we want to play good football and entertain the fans. We will try everything to go on playing in the FA Cup, but I think more importantly we want to continue to have the bravery to play against a big team. We know they have a lot of quality in their team, but I think we are going to give it a go.

(7) No one can accuse Derby County of looking ahead to this lucrative cup tie. The Rams soundly beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 on Saturday, grabbing all three points after going winless in their last four Championship matches. Derby County jumped all over their hosts in the first half, as a Tom Lawrence brace and Jason Knight goal paced them to a 3-0 halftime lead.

(8) The aforementioned Lawrence, formerly of Manchester United’s academy, has scored four goals in his last six games for a total of nine on the season. He must be relishing this FA Cup matchup against his boyhood team.

(9) Speaking of a former Red relishing this one... Thursday’s biggest storyline will undoubtedly be Wayne Rooney suiting up against his old team. The erstwhile Manchester United captain faces off against the Reds for the seventh time in his legendary career — and third since leaving Old Trafford in 2017.

(10) Rooney on this special FA Cup matchup:

I love [Manchester United]. It’s a team I want to do well, I want to win, but for this 90 minutes, 120 minutes, I want them to lose.

I’ve come here as a Manchester United player in the FA Cup and I know what it means to the fans, the players, the staff to have Manchester United come in. It’s a big day for the football club — and a big challenge.

(11) Under Cocu, Rooney has been playing in a midfield role and has already scored four goals since joining his new club in January. The Derby County boss on finding the right position for his star player:

I think, at the moment, it is his best position. He can play as a No. 10 or, when you play with one holding midfielder, he can be one of the two offensive midfield players. He gives us a lot in build up with Max Bird. They have a great connection and that was important.