After being unceremoniously dumped out of the UEFA Champions League and falling behind in the race for the Premier League title, the FA Cup represents Manchester United’s best chance for glory this season.

Manchester United are in crisis, there’s no getting around it. In two consecutive matches they have registered just one shot on target. In the first one, Rooney’s goal glazed over all the negative points and everyone was ecstatic that they had stolen a victory against arch-rivals Liverpool. In the second, the situation was reversed and they were handed a 1-0 defeat by Southampton at home.

In another season, this would be a routine match against a lower league side which Manchester United would probably demolish. But this time around it presents the perfect opportunity for their opponent to snatch a win and add further misery to the Red Devils and their under-fire manager. However, Derby County have their own problems heading into the match seeing as they have faced back to back losses against Birmingham City and Burnley.

Attacking woes

Manchester United have won just 7 of their last 22 games, averaging less than a goal a match. The utter lack of goal scoring intent has been one of the main reasons why fans have been infuriated with Van Gaal. Captain Wayne Rooney was in a decent touch of form scoring in 5 consecutive matches before the Southampton loss, but then he has the rest of an underwhelming season to make up for.

Anthony Martial seems to have fizzled out after an impressive start, Memphis Depay has failed to emulate his success at PSV in the Premier League. Adnan Januzaj is back now, his first contribution being a big role in the goal that United conceded against the Saints. All of these players have the opportunity to make a statement in the upcoming match, but then again matches like these have come and gone with the youth failing to step up.

In their last FA cup match, the Red Devils had to rely on a last minute penalty converted by Rooney to ease past Sheffield United.

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The Captain is under pressure to perform

Defensive dilemma

First choice left-back Luke Shaw and makeshift defenders Ashley Cole and Antonio Valencia have all been ruled out with long term injuries. Manchester United are also missing the likes of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo due to injury. This means that they will be left woefully short on experience if right-back Matteo Darmian, who suffered from a head injury in the game against Southampton, is ruled out of the match.

This would mean that Paddy McNair, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind will form the fulcrum of the defence, with youngster Cameron Borthwick-Jackson coming in at left back — a far cry from their preferred defensive back line.

Derby’s best chance to pull off an upset

The last time Derby managed to get a win against the team was in 1897, when they played under the name of Newton Heath, the predecessors to the modern day Manchester United football club. But the promotion chasing side, who are currently 5th in the league table, probably won’t have a better chance to cause an upset.

Derby manager Paul Clement will draw some inspiration from the Red Devils’ shoddy form as he hopes to match wits with a manager he has described as ‘great’. Clement may well draw inspiration from his own mentor Carlo Ancelotti who he assisted at Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid.

Paul Clement (far left) with Ancelotti

On the attacking front, the Rams will be relying on new signing striker Nick Blackman, who is among the top scorers in the second tier, as well as former Aston Villa duo Darren Bent and Andreas Weimann to try and unlock the United defence. But tactically speaking, Derby cannot rely on attacking play to take out Manchester United, they should rather sit back in defence, let the opponents keep the ball and look to strike sure and fast on the counter attack.

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