Derby County tasted a 2-1 defeat against Manchester United as they returned to Pride Park Stadium on Sunday afternoon for their first public pre-season fixture ahead of the 2021/22 campaign.
Fans were welcomed back to the stadium for the first time in 16 months and Rams fans were able to see last season’s top goal scorer Colin Kazim-Richards for the first time as he found the back of the net in the second half with a stunning strike from distance.
The frontman's goal halved the deficit of Tahith Chong and Facundo Pellistri's earlier strikes.
Wayne Rooney fielded 22 Rams players in the soaring afternoon heat in Derbyshire against last season's Premier League runners up and, of course, Rooney's former club where he starred as a player.
Included in the starting XI were free agents Phil Jagielka, Ravel Morrison, Sone Aluko, Sam Baldock, as well as Curtis Davies who continues to train with the Rams despite being out of contract.
Richard Stearman, another free agent, was also on the bench as well as goalkeeper Harrison Foulkes who is training with Derby's Under-23s after leaving Hull City in the summer.
Derby applied the pressure well in the opening stages and came close twice within ten minutes. Davies powered a header on target from the right side of the box from a set play, only to be denied by a strong stop by Tom Heaton.
Soon after, following good possession around the area, Max Bird rifled an effort from outside the area that flew just wide.
However, the visitors took the lead after 17 minutes through Chong. A loose pass was latched on to by winger and his touch saw him skip through in the area. Kelle Roos initially blocked the Dutchman's shot, but the ball fell fortunately for Chong to slot in the rebound.
On the half hour mark, the Rams came close again, this time through skipper Tom Lawrence when he snuck in at the back post to head just over.
They came even closer to the equaliser in the closing moments of the first half.
Nathan Byrne sent a corner into the far side of the area, which Davies headed back into the cluster of players in the goalmouth. Jagielka back-heeled the ball towards goal, but it was saved at point-blank range by Heaton.
Rooney made two changes at the half-time break, with Kazim-Richards and Richard Stearman coming off the bench to replace Davies and striker Baldock.
United doubled their lead on the hour mark. Shola Shoretire fed the ball into the right side of the area to Pellistri, who took the ball round Roos with some neat footwork to tap in.
The Rams pulled one back on the 70-minute mark with a stunning strike from Kazim-Richards, who struck the bottom corner from 25 yards out after good work by Isaac Hutchinson to win the ball back and set up the striker to lash beyond the reach of former Derby goalkeeper Lee Grant.
Two minutes later and Derby came close to the equaliser. Hutchinson did brilliantly to weave into the area and curled a low effort just wide of the far post.
It was almost 3-1 when former Rams' loanee Jesse Lingard's brilliant efforts from the edge of the box cannoned off the bar with substitute goalkeeper David Marshall beaten.
Despite not being able to find an equaliser and ending the friendly with a defeat, there were plenty of encouraging signs from Rooney and his side to build on with three more friendly matches coming up during the next fortnight.
Derby County: Roos (Marshall, 60), Byrne (McDonald, 60), Shinnie (Thompson, 60), Jagielka (Forsyth, 60), Bird (Aghatise, 83), Lawrence (C) (Sibley, 60), Baldock (Kazim-Richards, 45), Aluko (Hutchinson, 60), Buchanan (Bardell, 60), Morrison (Ebosele, 60), Davies (Stearman, 45).
Substitutes Not Used: Foulkes, Plange, Solomon,
Manchester United: Heaton (Grant, 46); Wan-Bissaka (Galbraith, 46), Tuanzebe (Fish, 61), Mengi (Bernard, 61), Williams (Telles, 46); Garner (Matic, 46), Levitt (Andreas, 46); Chong (Pellistri, 46), Mata (C) (Lingard, 46), Elanga (Shoretire, 46); Greenwood (Hugill 46, (Hannibal, 79).
Substitutes Not Used: Bishop.