Phillip Cocu was keen to focus on the positives he saw from his Derby County side following their 3-0 defeat to Manchester United at the Fifth Round stage of the Emirates FA Cup.
United were two goals to the good by half-time following strikes from Luke Shaw and Odion Ighalo after the half-hour mark, while Ighalo notched his second of the night to round off the scoring with 20 minutes to go.
Derby had chances in both halves as they applied pressure to their top-flight hosts in their quest to reach the Quarter Finals of the competition.
Louie Sibley went close with a rasping drive early on, while Martyn Waghorn saw a header flash just wide early in the second half as the Rams pushed for a way back into the game.
Skipper Wayne Rooney was also twice denied by United goalkeeper Sergio Romero from free-kick situations in either half.
Despite ultimately not getting the result they wanted, Cocu felt his Derby players will only benefit from the ‘great experience’ of playing an opponent competing at the very highest level.
Speaking to RamsTV after the game, Cocu said: “In the end it was a deserved win for Manchester United.
“We played a good game, but we were not effective enough in front of goal. There were a few good saves by Sergio Romero and some situations where we didn’t defend well enough.
“Against a top team with top-class players, they will find the net and they did.
“If we could have got a goal back in the second half then it would have been a different game. In the first 15 or 20 minutes of the second half was the best football but we couldn’t get the goal and after their third goal it was over.”
He added: “It was excellent experience for the team, especially for the youngsters. We made a decision all together to try to play football like we always do in the league and again against Manchester United.
“Maybe that was something they liked but you have to play to the qualities you have and try to play the positive. It wasn’t good enough to get a win.”
Derby’s starting line-up saw five players to have come through the Academy set-up.
Jayden Bogle, Max Lowe, Max Bird, Jason Knight and Sibley were all named in Cocu’s line-up to face the Red Devils.
They were joined on the pitch by a sixth before half-time as Morgan Whittaker replaced the injured Tom Lawrence.
Sibley, in particular, impressed with a dynamic performance in the middle of the park and was awarded the Rams’ Man of the Match accolade.
Discussing having so many youngsters on the pitch, Cocu said: “First they have to deserve they opportunity by the way they train so for Max Bird, Jason Knight, Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe they have played a lot of games.
“It was an excellent game for Louie Sibley to come on with his qualities and get experience against a top team and he was the Man of the Match. That was a fantastic moment for him but also for the club as well.”
Much of the media attention ahead of the game was on Rooney as he went head-to-head with his former club.
He holds legendary status at Old Trafford sits proudly in their record books as United’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Reacting to the 34-year-old’s performance, Cocu said: “Everybody would have loved to have seen a goal go in for Wayne, but their goalkeeper made two great saves.
“If the first one had gone in with the scoreline at 0-0 then it could have been quite different. As I say many times, the goalkeeper is an important part of the team and Sergio Romero showed it today.”
Derby return to Sky Bet Championship action on home turf on Sunday afternoon against Blackburn Rovers (3pm kick-off).