DERBY A THORNE IN UNITED’S SIDE

The Football League Paper - - FA CUP FOURTH ROUND - By Chris Dunlavy

FOR 20 hel­ter-skel­ter min­utes, Derby be­lieved. For 20 min­utes, they were the bet­ter side. The up­set was on, the ham­mer poised above the fi­nal nail in Louis van Gaal’s cof­fin.

Be­hind to Wayne Rooney’s screamer, the Rams crafted a glo­ri­ous lev­eller for Ge­orge Thorne and, as United rocked, Derby rolled.

Chances were cre­ated. Chances were missed. Thirty thou­sand peo­ple ad­vised the be­lea­guered Dutch­man to seek al­ter­na­tive em­ploy­ment. Ul­ti­mately, though, class won out. With Derby tir­ing and An­thony Mar­tial fir­ing, goals from Da­ley Blind and Juan Mata killed the ro­mance like a Chas & Dave record, leav­ing Van Gaal to fight an­other day and Derby boss Paul Cle­ment to praise more clin­i­cal op­po­nents.

“For a team sup­pos­edly in dis­ar­ray and lack­ing con­fi­dence, they’re not bad,” Cle­ment said. “They con­trolled the game. They were clin­i­cal in their fin­ish­ing. Over­all, they de­served it.

“But it wasn’t all one way traf­fic. We scored a re­ally good goal, played well. I just would have liked it to stay at 1-1 for a lit­tle while longer, to let the be­lief grow and maybe take it into the last 15 min­utes. It wasn’t to be but I saw enough here to be­lieve that a pos­i­tive re­sult is not far away.

“I wanted to go through of course. I’d have liked to take them back to Old Traf­ford and have an­other crack at play­ing a team of that level.

“In that sense, it’s dis­ap­point­ing. But I’m proud of the ef­fort. They worked from the first minute to the last.”

Cle­ment’s men didn’t start like a side on the back of a five-game win­less run. Bradley John­son and Ja­cob But­ter­field cov­ered acres and snapped into tack­les, Cyrus Christie bombed for­ward and scared David De Gea with a rasp­ing shot. Even Tom Ince tracked back.

Rooney’s goal, a beau­ti­ful loop­ing strike from just in­side the box, was ac­tu­ally against the run of play, a frus­tra­tion ex­ac­er­bated by the Eng­land skip­per be­ing marginally off­side.

Yet Derby heads didn’t drop and, ten min­utes be­fore the break, a flow­ing pass­ing move saw Chris Martin pick out the on­rush­ing Thorne who con­trolled with one foot, tucked away with the other and, for the re­main­der of the half, United were hang­ing on.

“Did half-time come too soon?” added Cle­ment. “Maybe, be­cause the goal had given us a lot of be­lief. But I’ve got no re­grets.”

Had But­ter­field re­alised a frac­tion ear­lier that he was through on goal, the start of the se­cond hald might have matched the cli­max of the first. But the mid­fielder dal­lied, United re­cov­ered and, from that point on, dom­i­nated al­most com­pletely.

Mor­gan Sch­nei­der­lin fi­nally stopped pass­ing to Derby play­ers. Juan Mata found space be­tween the lines. Blind, sear­ing for­ward from cen­tre-half, sur­prised ev­ery­one by get­ting on the end of Jesse Lin­gard’s cen­tre to stab home a de­flat­ing se­cond.

Best of all, though, was Mar­tial, whose glid­ing runs down the left had the pace and men­ace of a fighter jet.The French­man teased and tor­tured Christie for most of the 90 min­utes and, five min­utes from time, picked out Mata. The Spa­niard swept home to kill the game.

“For the first 20 min­utes, Mar­tial was very bad,” said Van Gaal.

“Af­ter that, he was fan­tas­tic. I hear ev­ery­body say­ing he was man of the match but a man of the match needs to play 90 min­utes.

“I am al­ways say­ing that we have to move the ball more quickly. But it is al­ways de­pen­dent on your op­po­nent. In pre­vi­ous games, we couldn’t do it. Here we were good. It was a good per­for­mance and that was im­por­tant at the mo­ment.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

MATA OF TIME: Juan Mata cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing the third goal for Manch­ester United and, in­set, Ge­orge Thorne scores for Derby

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