Max Bird says he’s relishing the prospect of facing the team he supported as a boy when Derby County take on Manchester United in the Emirates FA Cup tomorrow night.
Derby will take on the Premier League giants in the Fifth Round of the competition at a sold-out Pride Park Stadium on Thursday evening (7:45pm kick-off).
Bird, who is 19, grew up supporting the Old Trafford outfit and has fond memories of watching United in action with his late father.
The Academy graduate could be lining up against his boyhood club alongside Derby skipper, and United’s all-time leading goalscorer, Wayne Rooney.
While it’s something he couldn’t have imagined growing up, Bird is determined to make the most of the opportunity and continue his impressive development.
Speaking to RamsTV, Bird said: “I have supported Manchester United all my life and had a season ticket there when I was younger with my dad.
“It’s going to be a dream come true to play against them. I didn’t think I would be lining up alongside Wayne Rooney playing against Manchester United in the FA Cup this season!
“I didn’t think that would happen over my whole lifetime, so I’m thankful and just need to take the opportunity now.
“My dad supported them and I just went along with it. They are a massive club and that had a big part to play - but hopefully we can knock them out of the cup on Thursday night.”
He added: “One of the main memories of going to Old Trafford was in the semi-final of the Champions League against Barcelona (in 2008) where Paul Scholes scored a rocket.
“That’s one of my best memories. I think I was getting really upset because the noise was so loud at the stadium and my dad had to calm me down a lot; but that’s one of my most fond memories.”
Bird has been a near ever-present in Derby’s midfield since the closing stages of December.
He says playing alongside Rooney in midfield, who joined Derby in January from Major League Soccer side D.C. United to make a return to English football, has been an enjoyable experience.
He has also been able to tap into the knowledge of Rams boss Phillip Cocu, who was capped over 100 time for Holland and enjoyed a glittering playing career at the highest level.
The reigning EFL Apprentice of the Year, said: “I’m loving playing alongside Wayne.
“He helps me a lot in the position that I play and it’s one that he hasn’t played a lot in during his career.
“You can tell he’s a natural in that position, but I come in every day knowing that I am training with one of the best players ever to play in this country, and playing under a great manager, and I can’t take any moment for granted.
“I need to keep taking my opportunity, keep cementing my place in the team alongside him and get more games under my belt.”
Derby go into the cup clash against United, with a place in the Quarter Finals at stake, off the back of an impressive 3-1 victory at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
The Rams cruised into a 3-0 lead before half-time at Hillsborough and Bird says everyone in the squad is keen to build on the many positives from the game.
He said: “The motivation in the squad is high.
“We played a good game at the weekend; it was a good victory and now we have Manchester United in the FA Cup.
“We know we are underdogs going into the game, but we will have our home fans behind us.
“We have just got to play our own game. Everyone feels good and ready to go.”