Manchester United's bid for a remarkable haul of five trophies in one season remains on course after a 4-1 win over Derby County in the FA Cup fifth round. Having already won the FIFA Club World Cup in December, Sir Alex Ferguson's side sit top of the Premier League, face Tottenham in the League Cup final and take on Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League second round. Now they are through to the FA Cup quarter-finals as well, thanks to goals at Pride Park from Nani, Darron Gibson, Cristiano Ronaldo and Danny Welbeck.
Ferguson made seven changes to the side that won at West Ham United last weekend, but that was little encouragement for their Championship opponents, as United's starting line-up still included Ronaldo, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs. United took the lead in the 29th minute when Giggs slipped a pass to Nani on the edge of the Derby area. The Portuguese winger cut inside and lashed a superb curling shot past Stephen Bywater.
Gibson added a second goal in the 44th minute when he volleyed home from Ronaldo's deflected free-kick. Gibson's strike came moments after Cristiano Ronaldo had a goal controversially ruled out for offside. Celebrations were well under way before the assistant referee raised his flag, as he had first checked with the fourth official.
The incident infuriated United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who was still unhappy about it after the game, but could afford a smile when asked if the officials had explained what happened to him. "I got an explanation, but whether that works or not, I'm not sure," he said. Ronaldo got on the scoresheet three minutes into the second-half with a powerful header from Giggs' corner.
No team managed by Nigel Clough's father Brian ever threw in the towel and his son seems to inspire the same levels of commitment. Miles Addison's excellent 56th-minute header was no consolation for Clough's Derby, though, who also lost to United in the League Cup semi-final earlier this season. It was the fourth goal Derby have managed against United in a little over a month and things may have become a bit tense for United had Foster not produced a wonderful save at full stretch 13 minutes later to deny Gary Teale.
Manchester United captain Ryan Giggs insisted the club's emerging young stars play a vital role in their bid to win five trophies in one season. Irish midfielder Gibson earned man-of-the-match honours after capping his best display to date for United with the second goal, while Welbeck came off the bench to curl in a sublime strike ten minutes from time. Considering solid displays from young defenders Jonny Evans and Rafael Da Silva, it is no surprise that Giggs is convinced it will not just be the senior players who make the difference in the second half of the season.
"We've obviously got a good squad. We'll need all the players now that we're in all the cups and leagues," Giggs said. "We'll need them all and we've got good players coming in like Gibbo and Danny Welbeck and when they are in, they take their chances."
Ferguson could not have wished for a more routine work-out ahead of more pressing league matters on Wednesday night and With such resources and after nine successive victories, five trophies may not be such a fanciful notion.
Everton, Chelsea also in quarter-finals
Australia midfielder Tim Cahill scored the decisive goal as Everton booked their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 3-1 win over Aston Villa. Chelsea are the only other team definitely into the last eight, after beating Watford 3-1 yesterday. Elsewhere, Blackburn Rovers rescued a 2-2 draw with Coventry City, West Ham drew 1-1 with Middlesbrough, Fulham were held to a 1-1 draw at Swansea City and Hull Citywere forced to settle for a 1-1 draw against Sheffield United.