Writer: Peter Simcox
Date:Sunday December 9 2007
8th December 2007
No dreams for Rams at Old Trafford
Manchester United 4 Derby 1
The Rams fought bravely for 40 minutes at the Theatre of Dreams but were eventually beaten 4-1 by Manchester United to leave themselves adrift at the foot of the table. But they must take positives from the defeat, they matched the Champions for 35 minutes and Steve Howard`s goal on 76 minutes broke an away goal drought for the club.
Paul Jewell made two changes to the starting line up for the clash with Dean Leacock and Craig Fagan returning at the expense of Gary Teale and Steve Howard.
United, looking to keep up the pressure at the top of the Premier League, were at full-strength but they suffered a blow shortly before kick-off when England midfielder Owen Hargreaves was forced to pull out, his place taken by Michael Carrick, with Nani coming on to the bench.
The game began in torrential rain with the Old Trafford pitch very heavy, with both sides pressing early. Both forced early corners with Rio Ferdinand the closest heading over, and on ten minutes Patrice Evra sent Wayne Rooney clear but he fired well wide.
Derby looked composed and was cheered on by a sell out 3,500 Rams fans in the stadium. It was the Rams who had the first shot on target, Giles Barnes long-range shot was deflected and Edwin van der Sar gathered comfortably. Moments later Jay McEveley tried his luck from 25-yards which Van der Sar saved low.
Ronaldo began to cause problems for the Rams down the flanks after a slow start, his shot on the run flashed wide and Giggs went even closer with a curling free-kick that dipped just over the bar from 20-yards.
The home side`s pressure continued and they looked certain to score on 24 minutes, Ronaldo again was the provider. He released Giggs down the left who crossed low to Rooney inside the six-yard box, but somehow Rams defender McEveley produced a stunning last ditch tackle to deny the England striker.
But with half-time approaching all the Rams hard work was undone with United striking twice in the last five minutes. First on 40 minutes Ronaldo picked up a loose ball on the left and darted into the box, his powerful shot was only parried by Bywater and Ryan Gibbs was hand to fire home the rebound, his 100th league goal for the Red Devils.
The Old Trafford crowd then sat back and waited for the goal avalanche, and Rooney should have doubled their lead seconds later. He collected Giggs` pass and after leaving Bywater on the ground Rooney chipped over the prone keeper, but the ball bounced off the post and was cleared by Claude Davis.
Then in the last minute of the half the Rams were guilty of not clearing a Ronaldo free kick and after Carlos Tevez missed the first opportunity the ball fell kindly for the Argentinean who fired home from close-range. The interval score line was harsh on the Rams, and Jewell made a double change at the break with Howard and Tyrone Mears replacing McEverley and Craig Fagan.
Jewell side began well in the second half, Howard rose above Wes Brown at the far post but his header lacked the power to beat Van der Sar. Rams defender Andy Griffin was then yellow carded by Foy for arguing when Ronaldo fell over thin air again. The Portuguese international is a gifted player but he does go down to easy and Foy became the latest referee to fall for it.
Derby was taking the game to their illustrious opponents and Barnes` low shot from the edge of the box almost beat Van der Sar to his right, the United custodian was late going down to push it around the post.
From the resulting Barnes corner the ball dropped to Davis in the six-yard box his spectacular overhead kick went inches over the bar. United looked to kill the game off and on 56 minutes they hit the woodwork for a second time, Giggs's low volley from a Brown cross beat Bywater but the post came to the Rams rescue. Then Kenny Miller fired over from the edge of the box as the game opened up.
But on the hour the home side went further in front, again the Rams giving the home side too much room in the danger zone. Brown chipped a low ball in from the right to Tevez, who wasn't closed down well enough by Dean Leacock and he had the time to tee himself up and shoot past Bywater.
The rain continued to pour down at Old Trafford but that didn't deter the Derby fans in the corner, who continued to sing loud and proud as they had done all afternoon. Louis Saha was introduced on 65 minutes and Bywater denied him with a goal from his first touch.
The Rams endeavour was rewarded on 76 minutes with their first goal on the road this season and their first in the league for over 700 minutes of football. Second half substitute Gary Teale released Mears down the right, and the former West Ham defender crossed to Howard who slid in to score from five-yards, it was the big striker`s first Premier League goal.
There was still time for a fourth for United in the last minute, again Ronaldo fell in the box after very little contact from a Mears challenge, and again Foy brought it. With Tevez on a hat trick most of the crowd thought he would take the spot kick but Ronaldo had other ideas, scoring low past Bywater.
If nothing else, Rams boss Jewell must take heart from the way his team battled and Howard`s effort was the very least they deserved as consolation.
Manchester United - GK Van der Sar, Evra, Ferdinand (O'Shea 72), Brown, Ronaldo, Anderson (Fletcher 62), Rooney, Giggs (Saha 65), Vidic, Carrick, Tevez
Subs not used - Nani, Kuszczak
Derby County - GK Bywater, McEveley (Mears 45), Leacock, Oakley, Fagan (Howard 45), Miller, Griffin, Davis, Moore, Pearson, Barnes (Teale 60)
Subs not used - Price, Earnshaw.
Referee - Chris Foy
Att - 75,725
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Date:Sunday December 9 2007
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