New Delhi: Manchester United eased past Derby County to record a comfortable victory at Pride Park in the FA Cup Fifth Round.
United had the better of the early stages and were able to take the lead when Nani scored from long-range on the half hour mark. Controversy arrived shortly afterwards, when a late offside flag disallowed a Cristiano Ronaldo ‘goal’, but the Red Devils soon netted a legitimate second – Darron Gibson scoring on the volley just before half-time.
Ronaldo was not to be denied, though, and he scored United’s third with a well-placed header within three minutes of the re-start. Derby did score a consolation, Miles Addison heading home, but substitute Danny Welbeck wrapped up the tie with an impressive finish towards the end.
As a result, United move into the Quarter-finals, and are still competing for all four trophies.
Derby County made one change from their last Championship fixture, a 3-0 win away to Plymouth. Jay McEveley was suspended; meaning Jordan Stewart came into the team.
Manchester United name a starting XI without a recognised striker, Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo being asked to lead the line. Darron Gibson, Rafael da Silva, Ben Foster and Nani were amongst the players who came into the side, while Jonny Evans returned from injury to partner Rio Ferdinand in central defence.
It was United who created the first clear opportunities of the match. In the 11th minute, Darren Fletcher combined with Ronaldo, before the Scotland midfielder shot straight at Derby keeper Stephen Bywater, who has recently signed a new three-year contract at Pride Park.
Four minutes later, Nani found space on the left and floated a cross towards the back post, where Park Ji-Sung was waiting. The winger stretched and made good contact, but Bywater was well placed to tip his effort over the crossbar.
Rob Hulse offered Derby some brief respite, shooting well on the turn after a long-ball was flicked on – his effort falling just off target. The former Sheffield United striker then had a claim for a penalty turned down by referee Alan Wiley after Ferdinand left a leg out in the corner of the box, although it did not look as if contact had been made.
In the 29th minute, the Red Devils broke the Rams’ resistance. In a patient passing move, Gibson, Fletcher and Giggs worked the way across the edge of the penalty box - eventually finding Nani on the left. The Portugal winger then skipped inside, and, under no pressure from the Derby defence, took aim and curled a shot from 20 yards past Bywater and into the far corner.
Controversy raged five minutes later when United thought they had scored a second. Quick thinking from Foster resulted in his arrowed throw finding Giggs on the halfway line. The Welshman flicked the ball onto Ronaldo, who burst past the Derby defence - route one football at its finest.
Ronaldo looked across to find the linesman’s flag down, and calmly slotted his shot past the keeper and into the corner. But, amazingly, deep into the Red Devils’ celebrations, an offside flag did appear.
For the following minutes, United’s players and management berated the officials, bemused as to why the ‘goal’ had been disallowed at such a late stage.
The offside decision was marginal, fourth official Rob Styles eventually explaining the delay was due to the linesman not being sure over whether or not Giggs had indeed made contact with the ball.
However, United were able to take out their frustrations in the right manner and managed to net a legitimate second just before the break. Ronaldo attempted an audacious free-kick from 35-yards, which deflected off Robbie Savage in the wall and arrived at Gibson at the edge of the box.
The Irishman then struck a first-time shot on the volley, his effort finding its way past Bywater into the corner.
Within three minutes of the second half, United had sealed their place in the last eight. After Stewart conceded a corner, Giggs’ delivery found Ronaldo, who was not to be denied his goal, losing his marker and placing his header between keeper and the defender on the post from 10 yards.
Moments later, it was almost four. Giggs and Ronaldo again combined well, and after Bywater saved Ronaldo’s effort, the re-bound fell to Fletcher in space 12 yards out, but he could not beat the former West Ham United shot stopper, who made a second save in quick succession.
Derby were able to respond, scoring a consolation goal in the 56th minute. Savage took a quick free-kick, finding Scotland winger Kris Commons, who flighted in an accurate cross from which youngster Miles Addison, running into the box late and undetected, headed past Foster at pace.
County continued to work hard, and Gary Teale came so close to scoring when he ran at pace down the left, cut inside and shot towards the far corner, only denied by a super save at full-stretch by Foster. Addison then headed wide from a corner after losing Evans.
But it was United who scored the game’s fifth goal. Fletcher and Giggs exchanged neat passes at the edge of the area, before Fletcher slipped a pass through to substitute Danny Welbeck.
The 18-year-old took the shot on first time from the left-hand side of the box and impressively curled the ball into the far corner to make it 4-1.