(Reuters) - Derby County midfielder Wayne Rooney will want to prove there is still some fight left in him when they host his former club Manchester United on Thursday in the fifth round of the FA Cup, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said on Wednesday.
Rooney spent 13 seasons at United as a forward, finishing his career at Old Trafford in 2017 as the club’s top scorer with 253 goals and winning 16 trophies in all, including five Premier League titles and the Champions League.
The 34-year-old joined second-tier side Derby this season after a stint with MLS side DC United and he has been influential in his new role as a midfielder, with four goals and two assists in 14 appearances across all competitions.
“He’s been a fantastic player for Man United and he played here for so long, he’s the club’s top scorer, he’s won so many trophies,” Solskjaer told reporters.
“Everyone appreciates what he did for us. He gave absolutely everything for this club. But any goal he scores against us will be chalked off his goals tally. He’s a threat in and around the box, set plays.
“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, we don’t give him any space or in midfield, he’s got that (Paul) Scholes like passing range.”
Solskjaer 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 ($61.31 million).
Fernandes, 25, has thrived as a playmaker in the middle of the park, pulling 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% 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. Full back Aaron Wan-Bissaka is also a doubt for the cup game.
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar