Premier League giants Manchester United left it late to beat Championship side Derby County 2-0 courtesy of goals from Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku to progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup on Friday night.
Old Trafford was packed but if they were expected a cavalier performance from their beloved Red Devils they were sorely disappointed for despite dominating their opponents, the hosts were guilty of profligacy and the match looked destined for a replay before the in-form Lingard struck with six minutes remaining.
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The United Academy graduate, who has come into his own of late, sent in a stupendous volley to break Derby’s stubborn resistance with custodian Scott Carson well beaten for once.
Lingard’s goal deflated the Rams, who had looked determined to hold on for a draw, and while they surged forward to find an equaliser, United caught them cold on the counter.
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Paul Pogba’s speculative punt was expertly controlled by Romelu Lukaku, who was playing for the first time since suffering a head injury less than a week ago, and the Belgian spun away to create space for himself near the halfway line. With fellow substitute Anthony Marital in support, the Belgian played a quick one-two with his teammate before firing one post Carson with his weaker foot to ensure United’s progression into the next round.
While Lukaku didn’t start, United fielded a very strong starting XI and ideally should have been up by several goals at half-time, Marcus Rashford, starting as centre-forward, was guilty of some glaring misses while Juan Mata and Paul Pogba were denied from set-pieces by a sprawling Carson.
After the interval, United kept up the momentum and while Derby threatened intermittently, United custodian Sergio Romero was a virtual spectator for most parts.
Rashford would hit the post late on and it seemed like Derby would hold on before Lingard struck with a moment of magic and Lukaku added gloss to the scoreline with a well-taken goal.
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In the other FA Cup tie on the night, Liverpool edged Merseyside rivals Everton 2-1 at Anfield to progress to the fourth round.
United have some breathing space before their next game, a Premier League tie with Stoke City at Old Trafford on January 15 and will look to extend their winning streak when the struggling Potters come visiting.