Wayne Rooney was impressed with several aspects of Derby County’s game after they registered a deserved victory over Real Betis at Pride Park Stadium on Wednesday night.
Derby were 1-0 winners against the Spanish top-flight outfit courtesy of midfielder Max Bird’s late strike.
The Rams’ penultimate pre-season friendly of the summer was a competitive encounter and the perfect workout for Rooney’s side in the lead-up to the 2021/22 Sky Bet Championship season.
Several players, including a number of free agents who continue to train with the squad, got important match minutes under their belts.
Rooney told RamsTV after the final whistle: “It always feels good to win and especially against a strong side.
“Real Betis finished at the top end of La Liga last season and I felt this would be the perfect game for the lads.
“The lads had to dig in, work hard and show a lot of energy. We did a lot of good things. I said to the players that we would get our rewards if we did all of that and we got it with Max Bird's goal.”
He added: “It was good to get a clean sheet; Kelle was excellent in goal and I thought we defended well as a team.
“The players have worked very hard in pre-season and you can see they are buzzing to beat a very good side.”
Bird is yet to score a competitive goal for Derby but will be aiming to make his late strike a sign of things to come.
The Academy graduate was Derby’s Players’ Player of the Season in the 2019/20 campaign and Rooney has been impressed with his pre-season displays.
The Rams’ boss said: “It was a nice finish. Max has deserved it; I thought he was our best player at Salford at the weekend.
“His passing has been excellent but there’s still stuff we can work on with him and improve, but it was nice for him to get that goal today.”
Derby’s pre-season games programme will conclude with a trip to National League side Notts County on Sunday (1pm kick-off).