Manchester United survive spirited Derby fightback

Manchester United survive spirited Derby fightback

It finished 4-3 on aggregate in favour of the World Champions.

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  • Last Updated: January 21, 2009, 4:20 PM IST
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New Delhi: Manchester United were cruising towards the Carling Cup final, but they were made to work hard in the end by plucky Derby County, securing a narrow aggregate victory.

As far as United's line-up is concerned, it's probably best to list the second-string starters: Foster, Rafael Da Silva, Neville, Evans, O'Shea, Nani, Gibson, Anderson, Giggs, Welbeck, Tevez.

It promised to be an interesting evening for the home faithful as they attempted to overhaul their narrow disadvantage from the first leg.

First Half

Kris Commons tormented Manchester United at Pride Park throughout the first leg, with his goal separating the sides as the second leg kicked off at Old Trafford.

The Scottish international was thus full of confidence in the opening minutes, picking up Rob Hulse's pass, driving forward and flashing a fine effort wide from distance.

The Championship visitors were keen to keep the game fast and scrappy, hoping that the United second strong wouldn't be able to gel. However, a moment of magic would soon level the tie.

Nani, who's having a productive Carling Cup despite recent criticisms, picked up just inside the Derby half, surged forward with pace, cut inside and unleashed an unstoppable drive beyond Roy Carroll.

Just six minutes later, Sir Alex Ferguson's fringe players had the lead in the tie. Carlos Tevez and Danny Welbeck linked up well before John O'Shea wandered forward to finish well. The defending, however, was woeful.

The Red Devils were flying by now and it was really only a matter of time before they added another and effectively book their place in the final.

Nani's cross was tempting for Welbeck, but the youngster didn't connect cleanly on the volley, hitting the ball into the turf and allowing Carroll to make the save.

Welbeck was involved in the build-up when the third goal did come after 34 minutes. He won a corner which was rolled to Rafael by Ryan Giggs. The Brazilian crossed for Tevez, who who able to find the net with a simple header. Three and easy, as they say.

Still, it could and should have been four and easy before the interval. Rafael played a one-two with Giggs and raced through, but the sharp move was concluded by a weak finish into the side netting.

The right-back, though, wouldn't have a chance to do better as he took a knock to his knee and was replaced by Darren Fletcher.

Second Half

Derby threw on notorious hothead Robbie Savage at the break, hoping to give the side a bit of backbone. He was keen to get into United after the re-start, giving away a free-kick which Giggs tested Carroll with.

Derby did improve initially, with Paul Green's dangerous cross causing Jonny Evans to panic uncharacteristically and Neville almost turning Hulse's ball into his own net.

Green then had two good chances in five minutes, both volleying and heading over... he should have done better with both and it looked as though it wasn't going to be his night.

The order, of course, was quickly restored and Tevez had a 'goal' ruled out for offside as the hosts went for the jugular.

United were enjoying much of the possession and Fergie was keen to get his subs on: 19-year-old stopper James Chester and one Cristiano Ronaldo, on for Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs respectively.

From then on, a John O'Shea captained side should have coasted to the finish line, having been superior in every area for the bulk of the game.

Football doesn't work like that, though, and the Rams raided the penalty box as Evans struggled with an injury concern. The stopper brought down Green in the area - a certain penalty - which sub Giles Barnes was only too happy to dispatch into the roof of the net.

United tried to respond instantly as the game moved into the last 10 minutes, but Carroll stood firm from Ronaldo and Nani efforts. At the other end, Savage whipped in a free-kick which Barnes headed straight into the arms of Foster.

United would seek to kill off their opponents once and for all as time started to expire and Tevez caused all the problems. He raced through and rounded Carroll - the 'keeper left with no choice but to pull him down. Ronaldo stepped up to power the spot-kick hard, low and into the net.

Yet Derby still weren't finished. They won a free-kick and, after a long injury stoppage, the impressive Barnes scored a glorious free-kick which beat the wall and dipped into Foster's bottom-right.

The only pity was that there wasn't a few more minutes for Derby. As it was, it finished 4-3 on aggregate in favour of the World Champions.

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