Derby County manager and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney on their 'cup final' and what he expects from Sheffield Wednesday in killer clash
Derby County manager has praised the way his players have handled a chaotic season off the field at the club and spoke bullishly about his side’s chances in the do-or-die clash with Sheffield Wednesday.
The Manchester United and England legend took over from Philip Cocu in November with the Rams bottom of the league and though he said he is happy they are going into the last game with their fate in their hands, a sharp fall from grace has culminated in six consecutive defeats heading into the Pride Park match-up.
“We’re in a position where we know three points keeps us safe and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
“I’ve spoken to the players. It’s a challenge, a high-pressure game and it’s one we have to go and enjoy. We have to enjoy the challenge and be men. The lads have been in a really good place this week.”
Like Wednesday, his side have had plenty to deal with off the field. Their wages have been paid late on a number of occasions and the club are currently in the midst of a controversial takeover by former Owls advisor Erik Alonso, with reports in the national media suggesting the deal is hitting the rocks.
But Rooney, who was no stranger to off-field chaos during his playing career himself, said that despite their lowly league position, he was proud of how his players have reacted to the noise around them.
“They’ve had to face a lot this season but the big thing is that they haven’t made a fuss,” he said. “They’ve given everything, they’ve tried everything on the training pitch and I can’t ask for more than that.
“What I do know is that hard work pays off, you get rewarded for that. Their reward will be at 2.30pm on Saturday.”
Derby’s equation is simple; a win will see them safe. Anything less than that and they will be looking nervously at the result at Cardiff, where a win for Rotherham would see both the Rams and Wednesday relegated with Wycombe.
Wednesday require a win and have to hope Rotherham drop points in Wales.
Rooney said: “It’s a huge game for the football club, for the city and everyone involved. There are players from different countries, from different cities, but we’re all together and we’re representing this football club.
“We’ll do absolutely everything we can to make sure we get the right result.”
Reminded that nothing but a win will do for the visitors, Rooney said he was confident in the approach he has set out for his side and said there would be no second-guessing Wednesday’s approach.
He said: “They could come out and attack us straight from the off, they could sit in and try to win the game towards the end. We know there are different ways they can approach it, the same we can approach it.
“I’m confident our approach will be right and we’ll be ready.
“It’s a cup final. You win it, you get rewarded, you lose and it’s not a nice place to be.”