Football: Van Gaal braced for Derby duel in FA Cup

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal reacting during the match against Southampton on Jan 23, 2016.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal reacting during the match against Southampton on Jan 23, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

(AFP) - Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has his back to the wall once again ahead of his side's FA Cup fourth-round tie at second-tier Derby County on Friday.

Saturday's woeful 1-0 defeat at home by Southampton prompted press reports that van Gaal had offered to resign and although those claims were rebutted by figures within the club, defeat at Derby will see the speculation ramp up all over again.

United needed a stoppage-time Wayne Rooney penalty to overcome third-tier Sheffield United in round three and the United captain is anticipating another testing evening at the iPro Stadium, where United won 4-1 in the fifth round in 2009.

"We know, as we've played there before, that it will be a difficult game with a good atmosphere on Friday night," Rooney told MUTV.

"We have to be ready for that and be ready for a tough game as the Cup is full of surprises. Derby have nothing to lose. Nobody is expecting them to win and they will try to cause an upset. We know that and have to be ready for that.

"It will be a difficult night for us. Sheffield United at home was a tough game, so we have to be ready to battle and win the battle. Hopefully then our qualities will show through."

Derby, managed by former Real Madrid assistant coach Paul Clements, go into the game on the back of a heavy 1-4 loss to Championship promotion rivals Burnley, which left them fifth in England's second division.

But Clements is relishing the chance to lead his players out against United, who Derby last overcame in the FA Cup in 1897.

"What a challenge, to play one of arguably the biggest clubs in world football," he said.

"It's clear they're not having the best time themselves at the moment, but it's an opportunity for two teams to come together and put in a performance.

"It's going to be nice to put ourselves up against a very good side with world-class players, and a fantastic coach in van Gaal."

Van Gaal's defensive injury problems continue to mount, with right-back Matteo Darmian, who sustained 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.