Phillip Cocu believes Derby County’s Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round clash against Manchester United is an occasion for everyone connected with the club to look forward to.
Derby will welcome the 12-times winners of the competition to Pride Park Stadium on Thursday evening (7:45pm kick-off) to battle it out for a place in the Quarter Finals.
The two sides will play before a full house under the floodlights and a crackling atmosphere is anticipated.
Cocu feels the big game feel that comes with facing one of the world’s elite clubs is one to relish and savour.
Speaking to RamsTV, Cocu said: “It’s a big game for the players and for us as a coaching staff too.
“We are positive and looking forward to the game. We always enjoy playing in the big matches and you get the best out of yourself.
“If you can deal with the pressure, which there is in these games, then you can enjoy it and I’m looking forward to Thursday night.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side will make the trip to Derbyshire looking to maintain their recent upturn in form.
Since a surprise 2-0 loss to Burnley on home turf towards the end of January in the Premier League, they are unbeaten in eight matches in all competitions.
They sit fifth in the top flight and are hunting down a place in the top four as they seek Champions League qualification.
While Cocu knows the Rams face a tough test against the Red Devils, he says his side must show belief that they can pull off a cup shock.
He said: “You have to believe you have a chance in any game you play.
“We have a lot of respect for Manchester United; they are a big team and have extremely good players.
“If they play a top game then it will be difficult for us but in football, like we have seen in the past, that there is sometimes a surprise and you just have to believe that you can pull it off. That’s the goal for us.”
The cup clash will see Derby captain Wayne Rooney come up against his former club.
The 34-year-old played 559 times for United between 2004-2017 and is their all-time leading goalscorer with 253 goals in all competitions.
Cocu says the experience of Rooney and Derby’s other senior players will be invaluable to the likes of youngsters Max Bird, Jayden Bogle and Jason Knight.
He said: “It’s very important to have Wayne, but also the other senior players in the squad, when we have so many young players who are just starting their careers.
“They have to learn a lot and have big potential, but senior players have the experience.
“Wayne has had a big career and is a top-quality player, so you are lucky if you are a young talented player to train every day with the senior players who help you.”
He added: “During games, they guide the team and I don’t think we need to put the responsibility on the young guys.
“They just have to be able to play freely and the senior players will take command. Wayne is a great example because he does it in a fantastic way. He is a link-up between the technical staff and playing with his team-mates.”