José Mourinho pulled no punches in his team selection for Friday’s FA Cup clash between Manchester United and Derby County, though he had to wait 84 minutes before Jesse Lingard broke the deadlock and paved the way for Romelu Lukaku’s stoppage time second. United comfortably controlled the game, but profligate finishing and impressive goalkeeping gave rise a rather nervy affair, ending 2-0.
The first half was a tale of missed opportunities for United, largely thanks to Marcus Rashford’s continuing poor form. He really ought to have tested Derby’s keeper from inside the penalty area midway through the opening period, but fired clean over the crossbar. More inexcusable still was his failure to convert Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s inch-perfect cross 10 minutes before the break; his header — in truth barely a glance — instead bounced back off the far post.
Rashford’s proved the best first-half chances, but not the only ones. Lingard snatched a little too eagerly at a half-volley in the opening minutes, before free-kicks from Juan Mata and Paul Pogba both forced good saves from Scott Carson. At the other end, meanwhile, former United man Tom Lawrence looked lively, though Sergio Romero remained almost entirely untested before the halftime whistle.
The prompt introduction of Lukaku — for whom Henrikh Mkhitaryan was sacrificed, despite a promising first-half performance — suggested Mourinho wanted things done and dusted in double-quick time. Derby, however, had other ideas, and Lawrence’s whipped effort just short of the hour drew Romero into a diving save. United dominated possession, but had to be wary of their opponents’ counter-attacking threat: December’s Carabao Cup defeat to Bristol City weighed heavily on the mind.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, Mourinho looked again to the bench, this time introducing Anthony Martial in place of Juan Mata.
The Reds continued to pepper the Derby goal, but still the goal wouldn’t come. Pogba must’ve been expecting the net to bulge when he let fly from the edge of the penalty area, though his attempt veered off-target. Rashford went even closer moments later, though his angled, dipping effort bounced back off the base of Carson’s post. It was a difficult chance, but rather summed up his evening.
In the end, it took a moment of brilliance from Lingard (who else?) to break the deadlock. His eighth goal in 10 appearances was almost as spectacular as the others, a half-volley from the edge of the area which swerved irresistibly inside Carson’s far post. Derby’s resistance had been broken, and a stoppage time second sealed United’s progression. A one-two between Lukaku and Martial bought the Belgian the space he needed to slot beyond Carson from close range, and wrap up a 2-0 win for the hosts.