Wayne Rooney was full of praise for Derby County’s players as they turned on the style with an impressive 4-0 thrashing of Birmingham City on Tuesday evening.
Derby were dominant from the first whistle at St. Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium and were three goals to the good at half-time after Krystian Bielik, Graeme Shinnie and Colin Kazim-Richards found the back of the net.
Jason Knight rounded off an impressive night’s work with a fourth goal in the second half as the Rams recorded their biggest victory of the season.
The victory saw Derby move out of the Sky Bet Championship's bottom three and was the perfect response to the harsh 1-0 defeat at home to Preston North End on Boxing Day.
Rooney is currently leading the Rams’ coaching team while they wait to appoint a new permanent manager and he has now overseen eight matches in charge, winning three and drawing four.
Rooney told RamsTV after the game: “That was a great performance; there were some very good goals and it is a fantastic win.
“I am delighted for the lads. As I said a few days ago, the performances have been getting better and I feel this result has been coming.
“We were the better team from the off and on the front foot, so we felt it was a big opportunity for us here tonight. We played with Kamil Jozwiak on the right and Louie Sibley on the left because we felt we could get in down the sides and cause them problems.
“The second half is always difficult when you are 3-0 up and whether you go for more goals or hold on to it, but I thought the lads managed the game really well.”
He added: “We’ve got a clean sheet again, so I am sure the defenders and the goalkeeper will be really pleased.”
Rooney was keen to highlight the character of Derby’s players as they showed an immediate reaction to the disappointment of losing to Preston.
Alan Browne’s goal in added time inflicted a harsh defeat on the Rams, who played most of the game with ten men after Martyn Waghorn was sent off early on.
“I think I still am angry about how we lost the game,” Rooney said. “That is something you can’t control, decisions like that when we felt Louie Sibley was fouled in the build-up, despite them being as disappointing as they are.
“We showed great character and we are starting to show the quality which we possess in the team.”
Youngsters Louie Watson and Kaide Gordon came off the bench late on to make their professional debuts against Birmingham.
Watson, 19, only linked up with Derby’s Under-23s in the summer while Gordon, who only turned 16 in October, is the club’s reigning Academy Player of the Season.
On the pair, Rooney said: “The players deserve it, first of all.
“I brought Kaide up with the first-team initially to train with us for a week to see how he reacted to it and he was one of the best trainers and Louie has been with us for a few weeks too.
“I spoke to the players recently and said to them that if they trained hard and well then I would give them their chance.”
Derby return to Sky Bet Championship action at Sheffield Wednesday on Friday 1st January 2021 (5:30pm kick-off).