Fulham boss Scott Parker saluted his former England team-mate Wayne Rooney after Derby’s skipper marked his 500th English league appearance with a Panenka penalty in a 1-1 draw at Pride Park.
Rooney was the centre of attention as usual and he did not disappoint in a more advanced role, controlling the game with measured passes and dangerous set plays.
Parker acknowledged Rooney’s influence when he said: “He’s had a massive impact since he’s been here, it’s no surprise Derby’s upturn in form has coincided with Wayne coming to the club.
“I have no doubt, I don’t know looking in from the outside, but when you bring in a player of Wayne Rooney’s calibre, you’re not just talking about his technique because that’s there for everyone to see.
“But you bring a player into the building that has a mentality of knowing what it is about and driving standards every single day and he’s probably scooping a few up along the way.
“That’s what you get and obviously at times tonight you see his quality as well. He’s had to adapt his game but you often find that the world-class players can do that.
“They understand they can’t do what they used to but they quickly work out and find a way to be effective and Wayne’s certainly done that.
Matt Clarke was denied by Marek Rodak who turned behind a Tom Lawrence shot as Derby shaded the first half.
They went ahead in the 55th minute when Fulham were caught trying to play out and after Tim Ream was adjudged to have handled, Rooney cheekily beat Rodak.
But Aleksandar Mitrovic volleyed in his 22nd league goal of the season in the 71st minute before Rooney drove Derby forward again only for Rodak to make two more great saves.
Derby manager Phillip Cocu said: “Tonight Wayne played in a more forward position as a number 10. He showed great skill, great vision, technical ability and he’s important in all aspects tactically.
“He can adapt if any changes have to be made during the game and that’s always a pleasure for a manager or coach to have somebody who can do that.
“Also what he brings to the club, he helps the young players develop. He talks a lot to individuals, most of the days before training he’s in the coaches’ office to see how we work. He gives his input and his opinion so he knows exactly how we work.
“He can help us during a game in this way as well so for me it’s a pleasure to have a player of his ability and quality but also his personality in the team.”