Manchester United crashed out of the Carabao Cup in humiliating fashion, losing to Championship side Derby County 8-7 on penalties, after barely rescuing a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford. Despite going ahead very early thanks to brilliant team goal scored by Juan Mata, United fell to pieces in the second half. The Reds were outplayed in the second 45, and deservedly conceded twice late on, either side of a Sergio Romero red card. Marouane Fellaini’s injury time header sent the match to penalties, but after a thrilling shootout, Phil Jones missed in sudden death to send United out of the competition.
United went ahead with what will surely be one of their best goals of the season. Ander Herrera started the move by winning the ball sharply in midfield, before setting Anthony Martial off on a run down the left. Martial got by his defender to play a ball along the top of the box. A clever dummy by Romelu Lukaku left the ball for Jesse Lingard, who then laid it off deftly for the incoming Juan Mata. Mata, who has found himself mostly out of favor this season, then finished expertly across the ‘keeper and into the far corner. It was a delicious team goal, and barely two minutes had gone.
The Rams had come to play attacking football as well though, and almost leveled straight after. Only a sharp double save from Sergio Romero — making his first start after a long injury layoff — kept Mason Bennett from equalizing. In the next move, Mata almost got his brace. Ashley Young swung an excellent crossfield pass over the top, and Mata beat the offside trap and controlled the ball with that velvet touch of his. Unfortunately for United, Scott Carson (yes, he’s still playing football!) was on hand to deny the Spaniard his second.
United had more chances to increase their lead, but Lukaku stubbornly continued his recent form of being unable to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo. First, after winning the ball himself and only Carson to beat, he managed to send his effort wide. Minutes later, after being played in by some more threatening wide play from Martial, he somehow managed to head the ball over the bar from inches out. All this after Ashley Young hit the crossbar direct from a corner; a floating effort that he would have surely have claimed as deliberate had it gone in.
At half-time, United had played probably their most entertaining period of football of the season, but only had the one goal lead to show for it.
Derby started the second half the brighter side, and Romero was called into action again with minutes, needing another excellent stop to keep the visitors out. United did not heed the warning, however, and were soon made to pay for their slow restart. Young gave away a free-kick some 30 yards out, in a position that didn’t appear immediately threatening. Harry Wilson had other ideas. The forward whipped a brilliant effort from the dead ball, the swerve and dip of which completely wrong-footed Romero.
Mourinho responded to the equalizer by immediately sending on Fred and Marouane Fellaini in place of Lingard and Herrera. But Wilson was not done ruining Romero’s night just yet. Wilson found space in between Eric Bailly and Phil Jones and was clean through on goal. The Argentine number 1 was a little too eager to snuff out the danger, and handled outside the box. Romero was given a straight red card, and Lee Grant — formerly of Derby County — had to be sent on. The goalscorer Mata was the player to be sacrificed.
After such a promising start, United were now a man down, and looking the poorer side.
The sending off at least seem to put a spark in the home side. Martial and Lukaku combined well, and the Belgian’s fierce effort hit the upright. Derby had made a substitution of their own, however. and it almost paid immediate dividends. Floriant Jozefzoon must have been sure that his header just inside the post would’ve put the Rams ahead, but Lee Grant was there to make a stunning save at full stretch in his first competitive appearance for United.
It was not the last time that Grant would be called into action, and not the last time that a Derby substitute would be involved. In the 86th minute, Grant made another excellent save to keep out a shot from Mason Mount. The rebound fell to Jack Marriott, who headed above Grant to put the visitors ahead with just a few minutes to go.
It was looking grim for the home side, with a humiliating defeat on the horizon. In the 5th minute of injury time though, United’s best player as of late came to the rescue. A dangerous cross to the back post by Diogo Dalot hung up in the air invitingly, and Marouane Fellaini rose up and powered the ball into the back of the net, sparing his manager’s blushes, if only temporarily.
Under the new rules, the match went straight to a penalty shootout.
The first ten penalties were all expertly taken, sending the shootout to sudden death. Dalot and Nemanja Matić scored United’s first two, but Derby scored their first three as well. Phil Jones stepped up as United’s 8th penalty taker, and had his effort saved, sending United crashing out of the league cup in embarrassing fashion.