15/02/2009 18:20, Report by James Tuck
Derby 1 United 4
United cruised into the FA Cup quarter-finals after a professional demolition of Derby County at Pride Park.
Nani’s thunderous sixth of the season and a fine volley from Darron Gibson put the Reds in control at the break, before Cristiano Ronaldo’s bullet header made it three.
Derby, the only side who can claim to have beaten the world champions, got back into the game through Miles Addison’s header but never seriously threatened to complete an unlikely comeback and Reds substitute Danny Welbeck netted an exquisite fourth.
The Reds’ performance was all the more impressive given that it was achieved with a much-changed line-up. Sir Alex Ferguson made no fewer than seven changes to the side that beat West Ham, with Patrice Evra back from a seven-game absence and Jonny Evans also returning from injury alongside Rio Ferdinand in defence.
Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs were named as the two forwards with Ben Foster in goal, while Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov were rested from the squad entirely.
Gibson took up his preferred central midfield role and in the first minute he flashed a left-footed shot just over Stephen Bywater's goal.
That set the tone for a dominant display, in contrast to what the Reds had produced in the Carling Cup defeat on the same ground 39 days previously.
A flowing move involving Ronaldo and Giggs led to Darren Fletcher forcing Bywater into a smart stop, and a minute later the Rams keeper was called into action again to tip over a Ji-sung Park volley from an acute angle.
Derby hurried and harassed United in midfield but struggled to create any openings of their own until Rob Hulse volleyed a snap-shot just over Foster’s bar in the 21st minute.