Manchester United vs Derby Preview: Red Devils start Wembley journey against rampant Rams

Manchester United begin their journey for their 13th FA Cup with the visit of Gary Rowett's Derby

Manchester United vs Derby Preview: Red Devils start Wembley journey against rampant Rams
Above: Chris Smalling battling Bradley Johnson in the 3-1 win over Derby back in January 2016 | Photo: Getty Images/John Peters

Manchester United will face a tough first test on their journey to claim their 13th FA Cup title, as they welcome an in-form Derby County to the Old Trafford in the third round of the world's oldest cup competition. 

 

Continue the good start to the year 

​United are one of the most successful clubs on the planet let alone in England and will be looking to the FA Cup as another avenue for some silverware, and considering Manchester City's dominance at the top of the Premier League this could prove the best avenue for some success. 

The end of 2017 seemed to tail off for The Red Devils with three consecutive league draws in the festive period including a Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Bristol City, but they certainly got the new year off to the best start as goals from Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard gave them a 2-0 win away to Everton. 

United's last victory in the FA Cup will still be fresh in the mind of many fans having thwarted Crystal Palace in the final back in 2016, they also took on Derby in the early rounds on their way to Wembley and José Mourinho will be hoping for a similar 3-1 result. 

 

Coming to try and cause an upset 

​However this will be a very different Derby side that will visit the Theatre of Dreams than that in 2016, as Gary Rowett has waved his magic wand to make The Rams into serious promotion contenders back to the top-flight. 

It has been a very positive start to his first full season at Pride Park as they have been in and around the top six, but their unbeaten run of 17 matches has propelled them into the automatic positions. 

It is unlikely that they will be able to catch the frontrunners in Wolves who currently hold a 12-point gap, Derby may have suffered a hiccup in the 1-1 draw with Sheffield United but look comfortable in second with a two-point gap over Cardiff City. 

Derby certainly wouldn't be the first second division side to go to Old Trafford and get a result in the FA Cup with Leeds United win in 2009/10 being the recent highlight, and considering The Rams' form an upset wouldn't come as a shock. 

 

Team news 

There is expected to be a big shake-up for both sides considering the busy run of festive fixtures, but a big boost will be the return to fitness of Romelu Lukaku. 

The Belgian striker was taken off in the 0-0 draw with Southampton with a head injury, that saw him miss the win against his old club but Mourinho confirmed his return to fitness. 

"Romelu is back, Romelu is back," he told MUTV. "As I said it was not a concussion, it was a precaution, a protection for him. He wanted to play against Everton, but this time he is back."

 Zlatan Ibrahimović remains on the sidelines while Ashley Young serves his second of a three-match ban, Sergio Romero is expected to start while Chris Smalling could return after being on the bench at Goodison Park after missing two matches with a groin problem. 

Rowett is also expected to shake things up but is expected to miss two key players for the trip to the North West, he admitted in his pre-match press conference that Joe Ledley is a doubt with injury but hopeful that ex-Red Devil Tom Lawrence will shake off a back problem to be able to make a return on his old stomping ground. 

Manchester United will host Derby County in the third round of the FA Cup at Old Trafford on Friday, January 5 with kick-off at 8pm GMT.