Wayne Rooney has issued a stern warning to his Manchester United teammates ahead of their FA Cup "battle" this Friday.
United are currently in turmoil after suffering a 1-0 defeat to Southampton at Old Trafford last Saturday - their sixth league defeat of the season - with manager Louis van Gaal facing daily speculation that he will either resign, or be sacked any day.
However, Rooney has called for his teammates to put all that aside and physically prepare themselves for their fourth-round tie against Derby.
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"We know, as we've played there before, that it will be a difficult game with a good atmosphere on Friday night," said Rooney, referring to United's FA Cup fifth-round win at Pride Park Stadium in the 2008/9 season.
"I'm sure they'll be really up for it with their crowd and we'll be up for it, as we've experienced these games.
“The players who joined us last year and played against Cambridge and Yeovil will have seen that an FA Cup tie like this is more of a battle than a football game.
“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. No-one is expecting them to win and they'll try to cause an upset.
“We know that and have to be ready for that. It will be a difficult night for us.”
As the only domestic trophy to have alluded Rooney, the FA Cup undoubtedly holds special importance for the England and United captain this year.
United last won English football's most historic competition in 2004 - when they beat Millwall 3-0 in the final- and with their league challenge already effectively over, this could be the year the Red Devils finally challenge for the FA Cup once more.
Earlier this week in an exclusive interview with GiveMeSport, BBC pundit Trevor Sinclair expressed his expectation that Van Gaal's sacking was now "inevitable". To may people's surprise, the Dutchman has to date remained in charge and looks set to lead United in their fixture at Derby.
Both Jose Mourinho and Ryan Giggs have been widely touted as Van Gaal's likely successors and the Dutchman must deliver a win in style to be granted any breathing room on Friday night.
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