Nigel Clough's appointment as Derby County manager has added an extra element of drama to what is already set to be a massive Pride Park occasion as the Rams prepare to entertain European and World champions Manchester United in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final.

Clough has left Blue Square Premier leaders Burton Albion to join the club where his father Brian, who died in 2004, made his managerial name. He took Derby from the depths of the old second division to become champions of England and European Cup semi-finalists in a six-year spell that ended in 1973.

The East Midland club are now, following their relegation from the Premiership last season, in a similar position to the one that Clough senior inherited.

And as his 42 year-old son takes over after 10 years in non-League management the Rams face by far their most difficult task of the current campaign.

The former England striker, who played under his father at Nottingham Forest before joining Liverpool then Manchester City, will watch the Carling Cup tie from the stands as Academy manager David Lowe takes charge of the Derby team ahead of the new boss officially taking over on Thursday.

But Clough is guaranteed a tumultuous reception as he is paraded on the Pride Park pitch before the match. "The club has always had a special place in mine and my family's heart," said Clough, "and I know this is one of the most exciting jobs in football. This is a fantastic opportunity for me and one that I relish."

Derby's players also feel they have a fantastic opportunity as they take on Manchester United with the chance - albeit an outside one - of reaching a Wembley Final. Left winger Kris Commons said: "We're playing the best team in the world and they've no doubt got their hotel booked for the Final, but we're up for it."

The Rams will be hoping for a better first leg result than their Coca-Cola Championship rivals Burnley achieved at Tottenham Hotspur in their semi-final first leg on Tuesday evening. The Clarets went down 4-1 and face a huge uphill battle when they meet the Premiership side in the second leg at Turf Moor.

Commons said: "If our game ends nil-nil or even 1-0 to them we'll be able to go up there (for the second leg) and put a bit of pressure on them. The last thing we need is a 3-0 or 4-0 defeat because we'd be out of the tie. But if we get a good start at Pride Park the crowd will get right behind us and it could be a tough night for United."

The tie marks Derby's first appearance in the last four of The League Cup since 1968, while for United it will be an eighth domestic semi-final in 10 years. And while Derby, 18th in the Championship, have won only three of their last eight League and Cup games the Premiership champions have won five in a row including the World Club Final.

At Pride Park United will field a combination of first team regulars and fringe players but will be deadly serious about reaching the Final. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: "I think the way we've engineered it this year, with all the younger players, it's been great to see them in the Carling Cup - and it's always good to get to Wembley."

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