Attendance: 30, 194
A superb all round performance from Derby County earned them a richly deserved victory over World Champions Manchester United and it`s a measure of how well they played that they will be slightly disappointed to be only taking a one goal lead to Old Trafford. A superb thirty yard strike from Kris Commons, playing in a free role through the middle, gave The Rams the advantage and it could have been more had Rob Hulse put away a superb chance when Kucszak parried another Commons effort into the striker`s path but it came at him quickly and he could only stab over the top. Derby dominated for large periods of the match and played some great football as they looked a totally different side from the one Paul Jewell took charge of for the last time in the final game of 2008.
Changes were made for the visit of Manchester United with Andy Todd a surprise inclusion in the centre of defence and there was also a return for captain Paul Connolly at right-back and Mile Sterjovski on the right side of midfield. Steve Davies was included in the starting line-up on the left of midfield as Kris Commons played more centrally just off Rob Hulse up front. On the bench there were also places for Liam Dickinson, Robbie Savage and new signing Seb Hines. The visitors started with Wellbeck and Tevez up front and there were places on the bench for Rooney, Ronaldo, Giggs and Carrick as United fielded a strong, if not necessarily first choice, line-up.
Steve Davies was heavily involved in the opening exchanges looking lively down the left, he got in behind Rafael and dinked a cross into the area that was not properly cleared with Commons and Hulse both getting involved before the ball broke back to Davies. The winger`s first effort was stopped by Kucszak and his follow up was blocked at point blank range by Vidic as he looked set to fire into an empty net. Mile Sterjovski than had an effort cleared off the line by Jonny Evans after a deep Commons corner found him on the edge of the area.
United began to enjoy more possession without creating any clear cut chances although Gibson fired over a low cross that only just escaped Wellbeck and bounced wide of the far post. Davies again threatened at the other end when he picked up a loose ball and ran at goal but he couldn`t keep his right footed effort on target and it passed harmlessly wide. O`Shea found space in the area from a lovely threaded ball by Nani but Paul Green got back well to block the left back`s shot.
Derby were still giving United a few scares and they deservedly took the lead just before the half hour mark after some good work down the right saw Connolly and Sterjovski combining to feed Commons in the middle, he was given time to turn and run before firing in an unstoppable effort from thirty yards that had Kucszak beaten all ends up.
Paul Scholes had two quick fire efforts from the edge of the box one after the other but the United man`s explosive shooting let him down this time as neither effort troubled Carroll as they passed high and wide of the target.
The Ram`s confidence was really up and they giving their illustrious opponents no time on the ball and were playing some neat stuff of their own as halftime approached. There were no further chances before the end of the first 45 minutes as Derby saw out the remaining time with comparable ease.
Mo Camara gave away a corner at the start of the second half but despite another in quick succession United were unable to trouble the Derby goal and indeed Commons very nearly broke clear down the left of the pitch only to be hauled down by Rafael as he looked to have escaped the defence and the defender was duly booked for his troubles.
The visitor`s big guns were off the bench warming up as Ferguson signalled his intent to make changes but Derby made the first switch of the match with Gary Teale replacing Sterjovski swiftly followed by two Derby corner`s in quick succession that gave the visitor`s defence problems before they cleared. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo soon followed Teale off the bench to replace Scholes and Wellbeck as Alex Ferguson looked to swing the match in his side`s favour but, despite finding some dangerous positions, the final ball was letting them down and no end product was forthcoming.
Commons was still buzzing round and causing some worry to the Red Devils` defence but the next effort was Davies` but he couldn`t keep his right footed effort on target although Kucszak was worried by his shot from the edge of the box. Michael Carrick was brought off the bench to replace Anderson and Ronaldo went close after turning on the edge of the box but his low effort went wide of the right-hand post. Todd was caught out for the first time with fifteen minutes remaining and brought down Tevez on the edge of the area and Ronaldo stepped up and fired his free kick narrowly wide with Carroll beaten.
Kris Commons then turned O`Shea out on the right of the pitch and cut inside before shooting from just outside the area, the shot was parried out by Kucszak and the rebound came to Hulse too quickly and the striker could only stab over from six yards with the goal beckoning. Nacer Barazite was called from the bench to replace the impressive Davies and Commons again went close from a Paul Green pass but he dragged his effort across goal and wide of the far post.
Robbie Savage replaced Andy Todd who seemed to be carrying a knock and Addison dropped into the back four to allow the former United trainee to take up a place in the middle of the park. Paul Green broke well into the area and clipped a shot narrowly over just after 4minutes of injury time were signalled and a late Ronaldo free kick from thirty yards sailed harmlessly over. Carroll`s resulting goal kick was the last action of the match as Derby held on for a famous victory and set up an interesting second leg at Old Trafford a week on Tuesday.
Didn't put a foot wrong all night as his partnership with Lewin Nyatanga kept United`s strike force quiet. Attacked the ball when it was there to be won and commanded the backline superbly until being replaced just before the end.
Roy Carroll 8
Paul Connolly 8
Mo Camara 7
Andy Todd 9
Lewin Nyatanga 8
Steve Davies 8
Miles Addison 8
Paul Green 9
Mile Sterjovski 7
Kris Commons 9
Rob Hulse 8
Gary Teale 7
Nacer Barazite 6
Robbie Savage 6
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