Monday, 16 February 2009

Sunday best from rampant Reds

Michael Carrick had warned his Manchester United team-mates not to underestimate FA Cup fifth-round opponents Derby on Sunday.

He needn't have bothered.

Carrick was given the day off as United made sure there was to be no repeat of their Carling Cup defeat by the same side with such panache that opposing manager Nigel Clough predicted the quintuple was not beyond the realms of possibility for the World Club champions.

Sir Alex Ferguson made seven changes for the trip to the Midlands but his shadow side had barely broken sweat by the time they had gone 2-0 in front with goals from Nani and Darron Gibson. The young Irishman played with such authority that Ferguson made the unusual step of confirming he will start the Carling Cup final against Tottenham on March 1.

But at the hub of everything good about the visitors was Ryan Giggs.

The Welsh veteran turned in a midfield master class to leave him just three wins short of becoming the first player since the 19th century to collect five winners' medals in this famous old cup competition.

Cristiano Ronaldo and substitute Danny Welbeck gave the scoreline an emphatic look with second-half goals but the result was made all the more remarkable by the fact that Ferguson opted not to start with a recognized centre-forward, with Wayne Rooney not risked and Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tevez not given the chance to get their socks dirty.

Derby did rally when Miles Addison proved United's record-breaking defence can be breached with a header on 56 minutes, but that apart there was a whiff of inevitability about the end result.

Edwin Van der Sar and Nemanja Vidic were also afforded the luxury of an afternoon off but they should return when United resume their quest for a hat-trick of Premier League title successes against Fulham at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

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