Football: No surprise for Derby if they eliminate off-form Devils

Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal (left) before the match against Southampton on Jan 23.
Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal (left) before the match against Southampton on Jan 23. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Paul Clement says that it would not be a "giant-killing" if his second-tier Derby County beat Manchester United today, as the head coach plots the FA Cup downfall of Louis van Gaal.

At former clubs Real Madrid and Chelsea, Clement was assistant coach to Ancelotti and he will count on that experience, which included winning the 2009 FA Cup, to increase the pressure on van Gaal.

The United manager faces a battle to save his job following last Saturday's woeful 0-1 loss at home to Southampton, and defeat in the fourth-round tie at the iPro Stadium could be the final straw.

But thanks to United's poor recent showings in the competition against Sheffield United, Cambridge United and Yeovil Town under van Gaal, Clement believes that no one should be surprised if the Championship side triumph.

Asked if he will be highlighting United's troubling Cup form, Clement said: "I think so, and the players know about those things as well. I am not sure it will quite be a giant-killing if we get a good result. It is a challenge we are really looking forward to up against a team that is not in great form."

Derby, who last overcame United in the FA Cup in 1897, were riding high in the Championship at the end of last year but Clement's men have recently lost their way.

Their only win in five matches this year was a 2-1 victory over Hartlepool in the last round of the Cup.

They go into today's game on the back of a heavy 1-4 loss to Championship promotion rivals Burnley, which left them fifth in England's second division.

However, United captain Wayne Rooney, who scored a stoppage- time penalty for them to squeeze past third-tier Sheffield United in the third round, knows the 11-time Cup winners cannot afford to be as erratic as they have been in the Premier League, where they lie fifth.

"Derby have nothing to lose. No one is expecting them to win and they will try to cause an upset. We know that and have to be ready for that," he told MUTV.

Van Gaal has major defensive problems, with right-back Matteo Darmian, who suffered a rib injury against Southampton, joining Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo and auxiliary full-back Ashley Young on the sidelines. Central midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is also unavailable with a knee injury.

Derby could award a debut to Swedish international left-back Marcus Olsson, who signed from Blackburn Rovers this week.

THE TIMES, LONDON,AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2016, with the headline 'No surprise for Derby if they eliminate off-form Devils'. Print Edition | Subscribe