For many neutrals, this may just be another FA Cup tie between a championship side and a Premier League giant – a game the latter would be expected to breeze through without much ado. However, for those associated with Manchester United, this particular fixture could be a pivotal season-shaper, as a failure to defeat second-tier Derby County could well spell the end of the Louis van Gaal era after just 18 months at the helm.
A shock Champions League exit, lack of goals and an extended run of poor results have been the major talking points of Manchester United’s season and have put van Gaal on the brink of the sack. A cup victory on Friday night might buy the Dutchman more time, but will Derby County produce a performance that hammers the final nail in the 64-year old’s coffin?
Kick-Off and Live Telecast
Channel: Sony SIX
Live Stream: www.sonyliv.com
Date: Saturday, 30th January 2016 – 0125 IST ( Friday, 1955 BST)
Venue: iPro Stadium, Derby
Derby County have no new injury concerns to deal with, with Max Lowe, Craig Forsyth and Will Hughes all sidelined for the long-term.
Manchester United will be missing out on the services of Matteo Darmian on Friday after he suffered a rib injury in the defeat to Southampton last week. Michael Carrick is fit after four games out, but Bastian Schweinsteiger, Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia all remain unavailable.
Predicted Starting Line-Ups
Derby County were top of the Championship on Boxing Day, but a mere 2 points from their five games since – including two successive defeats by 3-goal margins – has seen them slip to fifth. A victory over Manchester United, however, could inject them with the dose of confidence they need to get their bid for promotion back on track.
Goals from the front three in the form of Tom Ince, Chris Martin and Nick Blackman have dried up of late, but that will obviously not be their primary agenda when the Red Devils visit the iPro Stadium. Their objective will be to keep themselves in the game by soaking in all the pressure Manchester United exert and attempt to catch them on the break. If the tactic works, it may well turn out to be an iconic night for the Derby County players, staff and fans.
Last 5 games (All Competitions): L-W-D-L-L (Most Recent – Burnley 4-1 Derby)
Manchester United’s struggling season hit new lows on Saturday when a late Charlie Austin header condemned them to a 0-1 defeat to Southampton at Old Trafford. If a lack of attacking intent was not enough to frustrate irate fans, then a fatal defensive error to concede the goal against the Saints was definite evidence that Louis van Gaal is a man under intense media pressure to turn the Red Devils’ fortunes around.
An FA Cup victory against lower-league opposition may not do enough to appease the fans, but at least it buys the Dutchman more time to sort things out. Injuries have also hampered United’s season, with as many as 8 first-team players out injured for this particular tie.
A defeat to the Rams, though, will almost surely force the club’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward – who has publicly backed van Gaal through this horrible run – to take a massive decision regarding the Dutchman’s future at the club. A make-or-break game awaits the 64-year old – how will his side fare in it?
Last 5 games(All Competitions): W-W-D-W-L (Most Recent- Manchester United 0-1 Southampton)
- Derby County have lost all their 6 meetings against Manchester United in the FA Cup – the most recent being a 4-1 defeat in the fifth round in February 2009.
- The Rams have beaten Manchester United just thrice in the last 19 meetings in all competitions. (D5, L11)
- Derby have lost just 2 out of their 14 games at home this season. (W7, D5)
- They have picked up just two points in their last five league matches (D2, L3), conceding 12 goals in that run.
- Manchester United have lost just one of their last 44 FA Cup games against lower-league opposition – a home defeat by Leeds United in the third round in 2010 (W36, D7).
- Wayne Rooney has scored 5 times in his last 5 appearances – although two of them were from the penalty spot.
Jason Shackell vs Wayne Rooney
With striker Wayne Rooney gradually returning to his best form, it is up to defender Jason Shackell to ensure that he doesn’t give the 30-year old too much room to work with inside the penalty area when the ball is at his feet. Stifling the opposition with a compact defensive organisation is vital if the Rams want to get anything out of this game.
Derby 0-0 Manchester United
Manchester United’s lack of intensity going upfront and Derby’s satisfaction in sitting back and allowing the opposition to throw everything at them leads one to feel that goals will be of a dire quantity in this game. A scoreless draw seems the most probable result, with the tie returning to Old Trafford for a replay.Published 29 Jan 2016, 09:44 IST