Quality was the winner at the iPro Stadium as a tireless and battling Derby County fell to a 3-1 defeat to Manchester United in the Fourth Round of the Emirates FA Cup.
Wayne Rooney, United and England Captain, opened the scoring with a strike of the highest quality after a strong start to the game by the visitors, before George Thorne coolly drew Derby level with a half volley.
Undeterred, the Red Devils always looked the more likely as they strong-armed Paul Clement’s side into submission with second half goals from Daley Blind and Juan Mata as Louis van Gaal’s side progressed through to the Fifth Round draw.
After a slow and nervy first 35 minutes, Paul Clement’s side gave a respectable representation of themselves before the eyes of the watching world as the BBC cameras flocked to Derbyshire.
It was during that opening half an hour when the visitors were, naturally, at their best in the tie.
Van Gaal’s side are renowned for their patient possession based game and against a nervous Derby, they maintained that characteristic in a strong start at the iPro Stadium.
It took as little as three minutes for the Red Devils to register their first shot – Anthony Martial bending an effort over after a neat interchange involving Marouane Fellaini and Rooney.
On a rare break forward, Cyrus Christie, with his weaker left foot, shot straight into the arms of David De Gea, but that aside, United held total control of the contest, bossing the possession as Derby erratically wasted the very little hold of the ball that they had.
With that, the visitors duly opened the scoring following another prolonged spell of patient build-up as Rooney collected a pass on the edge of the box and bent a superb effort over the outstretched Scott Carson.
Either side of a minute, Nick Blackman headed a Christie cross into the arms of De Gea, before Martial forced Carson into a save after cutting inside from the right.
It was going according to plan for the 11 time winners of the FA Cup, but with eight minutes of the first half remaining, Derby stunned their opponents with an equaliser.
A long punt up field by Carson was initially flicked on by Martin and after the ball dropped back to the forward, he lobbed a superb ball over the top of the United defence and into the feet of Thorne, who ran from deep.
The midfielder’s first touch was key as he set it nicely before hitting a half volley into the far corner of De Gea’s goal.
Not only was it crucial for the fact it got Derby level, but they replied reinvigorated and posed a greater threat for the rest of the contest in the swirling Derbyshire rain.
Blackman struck a fierce low drive narrowly wide of De Gea’s near post as Clement’s side finished well on top and whilst Derby were much more in the contest and playing with more urgency, United created the better openings in the second half.
Richard Keogh, donning a protective mask, crucially blocked a Rooney strike from inside the area, whilst Fellaini headed straight at Carson after rising highest for corner.
Shortly after the hour mark, United edged back in front – Blind tapping in a teasing centre from Lingard, the former Derby loanee, from the right hand side to calm any nerves creeping into the large contingent of travelling supporters.
Not lacking in effort, the Rams pushed but fleetingly threatened the United backline for the remainder of the contest – Butterfield’s high half volley over the crossbar was as close as they came to breaching the visitors’ defence for a second time.
In the end, the evident quality van Gaal has at his disposal shone through as Mata rubberstamped all three points as he coolly finished off Martial’s good work to add a third goal.
Derby County: Carson, Christie, Keogh, Shackell, Warnock (C), Thorne (Russell, 76), Butterfield, Johnson (Hendrick, 76), Ince, Blackman (Camara, 59), Martin
Substitutes not used: Grant, Bryson, Baird, Olsson
Manchester United: De Gea, Varela, Smalling, Blind, Borthwick-Jackson, Fellaini, Schneiderlin (Carrick, 73), Mata (Herrera, 84), Lingard, Martial, Rooney
Substitutes not used: Romero, McNair, Januzaj, Pereira, Memphis
Attendance: 31,134 (5,460 Manchester United supporters)Tweets by @ dcfcofficial