Louie Sibley scored a superb goal on his first league start for Derby County to put the Rams on their way to a 3-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers at Pride Park.

The 18-year-old midfielder - playing in the absence of Wayne Rooney - troubled Tony Mowbray's side from the outset with his fearless dribbling and he struck a thunderbolt of a shot from 25 yards that bulged the top corner of Blackburn's net after 26 minutes.

Derby continued to dominate the ball and they were rewarded for some slick passing when Max Bird, Sibley and Graeme Shinnie combined to create a chance that Rovers keeper Christian Walton could only parry into the path of Chris Martin, who bundled it into the corner of the net from six yards to double the hosts' lead.

Martin also converted a penalty five minutes from time before Blackburn's John Buckley received a straight red card for a nasty tackle on Curtis Davies, ending a sour afternoon for the visitors.

Blackburn would have moved into the play-off places with victory but they instead remain 10th, two places and two points above Derby, who will not have given up hope of squeezing into the top six themselves.

Derby County manager Phillip Cocu is aiming to utilise captain Wayne Rooney's knowledge of Manchester United when the two teams meet in the FA Cup fifth round on Thursday.

Rooney spent a hugely successful 13 years at Old Trafford, becoming the club’s all-time leading scorer before returning to Everton in 2017.

The former England skipper left Goodison Park to join MLS franchise DC United the following year, spending two seasons in the United States prior to linking up with Derby as a player-coach in January.

While it is three years since Rooney was at United, Cocu says Rooney’s long stay at United can only help the Rams as they target an upset at Pride Park.

"Of course, Wayne is very important, and maybe even more so in this game because he knows Manchester United like no-one else," he told reporters.

"He knows the players, the level of performance, what is needed in those big games. So yes, it will be extremely important for us on Thursday.

"I think it could be important for the rest of the team. He's used to the big games, he's used to the attention.

"So maybe it will only have a positive influence on his performance, I think. But if you're not used to playing these kind of games, it's better that the attention goes to more senior players and you just focus on your task and your job in the team."

Rooney will also have an input in Derby's pre-match preparations, as he has done ever since joining the club.

"We speak with Wayne before every game," Cocu added. "He joins in with the technical staff in preparation for games, to analyse the opponent, to select the clips we want to study.

"I always ask his opinion not only for this game because he obviously knows the club very well, but I think this is the way we work.

"He is a player that's the most important, and he wants to play, but he's also very involved in the team tactics and how we approach the game. So yes, we'll use that for this game, and we won't change that."

Phillip Cocu said Wayne Rooney will be ready for his reunion with former club Manchester United after Derby County earned a FA Cup tie against the Premier League giants.

Derby captain and ex-United skipper Rooney, 34, converted a 77th-minute penalty as the Championship outfit defeated Northampton Town 4-2 in Tuesday's fourth-round replay.

Rooney – who left United in 2017 having arrived from Everton in 2004 – can now look ahead to a Pride Park clash against United, where the superstar became the Red Devils' record scorer with 253 goals.

At Derby as a player-coach since January following a two-season stint with MLS side DC United, Rooney is relishing the FA Cup date, according to Dutch head coach Cocu.

"He comes back from the States, joins us and now plays his old club where he had a great career... it's special ... I'm sure he will be ready," Cocu told reporters.

"It'll be a beautiful game not just for Wayne, but everyone at the club."

Cocu added via RamsTV: "It is a great game for us and that is why we are so happy to be in the fifth round. We knew if we beat Northampton that we would play Manchester United here at Pride Park. It is a great game for the team, the fans and the club. We are looking forward to it.

"For me, they are not only a name in world football. They have really great players, quality players in their team, they play really good football and dominate the games.

"Maybe in the league table everybody expects them to be higher up, but that doesn't mean that they play bad football. It is an extremely strong team, but we will do everything in our power to create a great atmosphere and a great game here at Pride Park."

The Derby-United match will take place in midweek between March 3 and 5, with no replays.

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