Wayne Rooney out to show he still has fight, says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
United manager warns of threat from old boy, hails Fernandes' impact
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is wary of the threat Wayne Rooney poses to Manchester United's FA Cup hopes, as the Derby County midfielder looks to prove there is "still fight in an old dog".
United are on an eight-match unbeaten run in all competitions and head to Pride Park tomorrow morning (Singapore time) for a fifth-round tie that will pit them against their all-time top-scorer.
The 34-year-old, who joined second-tier side Derby this season after a stint with Major League Soccer side DC United, has been influential in his new role as a midfielder for the Rams.
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He has racked up four goals and two assists in 14 appearances across all competitions.
Said Solskjaer yesterday: "He's been a fantastic player for United and he played here for so long, he's the club's top scorer, he's won so many trophies.
"Everyone appreciates what he did for us. He gave absolutely everything for this club."
But Solskjaer joked that "any goal he scores against us will be chalked off his goals tally".
Rooney scored 253 goals and won 16 trophies in all - including five English Premier League titles and the Champions League - in 13 seasons at United as a forward, finishing his career at Old Trafford in 2017.
Solskjaer added: "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 and not give him any space in midfield, he's got that (Paul) Scholes-like passing range."
Solskjaer, 47, also hailed the impact of United's new midfielder Bruno Fernandes, who signed for the club in January for an initial fee of 55 million euros (S$85.2m).
Fernandes, 25, has thrived as a playmaker in the middle of the park, pulling the strings in United's attack and bagging three goals and two assists since his debut last month.
"I'm not surprised because I saw what he can do on the pitch and his leadership qualities," Solskjaer said.
"If you do your due diligence and speak to people who knew his personality, (you) hope he'd have this influence but couldn't be 100 per cent sure.
"Some players take six months, but the point was (to) get him in because of the quality. He relishes it, loves being around the place, gives everyone a boost and has an aura."
Solskjaer confirmed injured midfielder Paul Pogba will return to training with the first team next week, while forward Marcus Rashford and winger Daniel James are still sidelined. Fullback Aaron Wan-Bissaka is also a doubt for the cup game.
SCHMEICHEL BACKS DE GEA
The Norwegian added that he has full confidence in first-choice goalkeeper David de Gea, a sentiment also shared by club great Peter Schmeichel.
De Gea faced criticism after gifting Everton a third-minute lead in a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park on Sunday, when he dawdled on the ball and his attempt to clear was charged down by Dominic Calvert-Lewin and went in off the striker.
"I don't think there is a goalkeeping situation (at United)," said Schmeichel, one of the greatest custodians of all time.
"It's ridiculous to talk about that. He made a mistake against Everton, he made one against Watford.
"You can be the best goalkeeper in the world but, if you're not well-protected, you will concede goals. And, at times, you get sucked into that and make mistakes. There's no goalkeeping situation." - REUTERS