Thursday 4 January 2018

Match preview: United v Derby County

United face Championship opponents for the second time in three weeks as our FA Cup campaign gets underway with the visit of Derby County on Friday. Having been knocked out of the Carabao Cup by high-flying Bristol City, the Reds face Gary Rowett's promotion-chasing Rams in the third round of the other domestic cup at Old Trafford. United have not lost to two different sides from outside the top flight in a single season since 1983/1984 (Oxford United and Bournemouth). 

Despite being a division apart, Derby have been regular - and tricky - opponents for the Reds in recent years as we played them in both cups during the 2008/09 season and, more recently, at the fourth round stage of this competition in 2016, when we won 3-1 at the iPro Stadium on our way to a then record-equalling 12th FA Cup success. 

Sergio Romero will start in goal for United, with Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini also both available again after injury. Michael Carrick, Eric Bailly and Antonio Valencia are still sidelined with Ashley Young to serve the second of a three match ban. 
Derby forward and former United man Tom Lawrence (hip) is doubtful, as are midfield duo Joe Ledley and Bradley Johnson (both back injuries). Both Jose and counterpart Rowett look set to rotate and freshen up their selections after a busy hectic period of fixtures. 

The United manager said: "Of course the FA Cup is special, more than the League Cup and I always try and give a lot of respect. Any cup is a beautiful competition, let's go and try to win it. I've only won it once, so I would like to win it again and we are going to try and do that. The draw was difficult for us because we are not going to play against a Premier League team - you look at Derby's players and they are not Championship players. Many of them are Premier League players in a Premier League team, I have been against many of them before, we know the quality of Derby and it will be a difficult, dangerous tie."

Having suffered semi-final heartache in the play-offs in that 2015-16 campaign, last season was one of disappointment for Derby as they finished ninth after a season of flux in the Midlands. This season looks set to be different, however, with the Rams currently second in the Championship after an eight-match unbeaten run, two points clear of closest challengers Cardiff City in a congested battle for the second automatic promotion place. In 15-goal Czech striker and top scorer Matej Vydra and a number of former top flight players including Scott Carson, Tom Huddlestone, Curtis Davies and Darren Bent, the Rams certainly have the quality and threat to cause United problems. 

Form guide: United W L D D D W Derby County W W W D W D 
Match odds: United 2/9 Draw 9/2 Derby County 13/1
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

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