On his full debut, 19-year-old Luke Plange was the hero, scoring his first professional goal for the club, ending a three-game winless run for a COVID-hit Rams squad.
On Luke Plange
The Derby manager was quick to praise the young forward, not only for his goal but also for his off-the-ball work and the striker’s awareness he showed throughout the game.
Rooney opened with: “He [Plange] has been playing with the Under-23s and scoring goals and the best goal scorers when on the pitch, sniff chances out.
“I know it was a tap in, but it is a great striker’s goal, but not just that, his work rate today was fantastic, his movement and runs in behind were good.
“He is a big lad as well so he can hold up the ball well and it is always great as a manager when you fight for young kid to get them in and they deliver.”
On the COVID outbreak
Adding to a long list of off-the-field problems that the Rooney and the Rams have had to deal with this season, the club were hit with a COVID outbreak, with seven squad regulars ruled out for the game because of it.
Rooney addressed the issues that he faced during the lead up to the game and how it forced him to change shape.
“It was very tough,” bemoaned Rooney. “The outbreak was challenging to deal with as this morning we were still having players dropping out.
“At training, we only had 13 players available until we brought in some of the younger lads. A lot of the prep work has been done on video [calls].
“The team was set yesterday but the bench we were still changing today – usually I decide the team on a Thursday and from that point we work on our shape and how we want to play.”
On the change of shape
The switch to a back-three worked well for Derby in the end, as they limited Blackpool to just two shots on target in the game, neither of which challenged Ryan Allsop in goal.
“It was an opportunity for some more of the young lads to be on the bench, and for Dylan Williams to get a start and for Kamil to play.
“The wing-backs are essential in the system. I wouldn’t say I like a back-five, I want it to be back-three where the wide players act more like wingers, and I thought they did well today.
“I want the wing-backs high and wide – with the striker they should be the furthest players up the pitch and also I wanted to create an overload in midfield with Tom Lawrence dropping and Knight dropping with Shinnie and Bird.”
On Curtis Davies and Phil Jagielka
Curtis Davies and Phil Jagielka have been ever-present at the back for Derby this season, with Davies playing every single minute in the league this campaign.
Rooney was full of praise for the duo, who were instrumental in the game, forming an unbreakable back-three with Craig Forsyth to secure a clean sheet.
The 36-year-old ended with: “I think him [Curtis Davies] and Jags [Phil Jagielka] have been excellent for us, and they are using all of their experience.
“I know at times they won’t always like some of the things I am asking them to do, like pushing up the pitch more when they have played a lot of games and their natural instinct is to drop more.
“I want them to be aggressive and I want my goalkeeper to start higher, especially today when the pitch is wet so more balls can run through, but they have been crucial to us really.”