Louis Van Gaal is back on track as Manchester United avoid upset in cup
Derby County 1-3 Manchester United
Louis van Gaal declared himself a happy man after Manchester United advanced into the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 3-1 win away at Sky Bet Championship side Derby.
Second-half strikes from Daley Blind and Juan Mata confirmed United's victory after George Thorne had cancelled out Wayne Rooney's 16th-minute opener.
The triumph was the perfect response to United's Premier League defeat to Southampton at Old Trafford last weekend and relieved the pressure on under-fire manager van Gaal.
Rooney quickly settled the nerves with a superb opening goal, but George Thorne's equaliser before half-time might have had Van Gaal worrying again as Derby threatened to add their name to the list of lower league teams, which include MK Dons, Cambridge, Middlesbrough and Sheffield United, to cause United problems in the cups under his tenure.
However, well-worked goals from Blind and Mata in the second half saw United progress in a much more comfortable manner than was perhaps anticipated before kick-off.
"I am very happy," said van Gaal.
"The performance was also very good and I said that at half-time; that we can continue with the way we had played in the first half, only we gave a goal away and it was by ourselves again.
"I liked the performance in the first half, it had a lot of confidence and that is back which is very important.
"The second half was even better, we created a lot of chances and we scored goals, but also we created more chances to score more goals. I am a very happy coach."
Van Gaal is now expecting to see an improvement in United's performances with confidence restored by their comfortable victory.
"We have won every game in 2016 except the game against Southampton and that was because of the lack of confidence," said Van Gaal.
"We played at home and the fans were supporting us, so it was a little bit ridiculous, but we did play like that.
"Now the confidence is back, we dared to play again and in spite of the pressure of Derby County in the second half we met that pressure, we created chances and we scored fantastic goals I have to say.
"The second and third were fantastic combinations and fantastic finishes as well."
United made their first serious attack count to devastating effect. Rooney looked marginally offside when he received Anthony Martial's pass on the left side of the penalty area, but his curling strike was sublime, with the ball nestling right inside the far post giving Scott Carson no chance.
Nick Blackman worked David de Gea with a header midway through the first half as Derby finally began to get a foothold in the game, but the equalising goal was as unexpected as it was brilliant.
Chris Martin chased down a loose ball and hooked a lovely reverse pass to midfield runner Thorne. His first touch to kill the ball just inside the box was perfect, it had to be with defenders in tow, allowing him to steer a half volley past De Gea after 37 minutes.
United dominated the early stages of the second half, with Martial looking menacing.
He combined well with Jesse Lingard combined, l but Mata directed his header, from Lingard's deflected cross, wide from six yards out.
Mata made amends by playing a part in United's second goal. His pass set up Lingard whose low cross from the right was guided into the bottom corner of the net by the instep of Blind from just in front of the penalty spot.
The 65th-minute strike brought a rare display of emotion from Van Gaal who pumped his fists in celebration - perhaps even relief.
United sealed victory and a place in the fifth round with seven minutes remaining.
Another mazy run from Martial saw him pull the ball back for Mata who brilliantly guided his left-foot shot into the bottom corner of the net.
DERBY COUNTY: Carson, Christie, Keogh, Shackell, Warnock, Thorne (Russell 76), Ince, Butterfield, Johnson (Hendrick 76), Blackman (Camara 59), Martin.
Subs Not Used: Olsson, Grant, Bryson, Baird.
Goals: Thorne 37.
Manchester UNited: De Gea, Varela, Smalling, Blind, Borthwick-Jackson, Schneiderlin (Carrick 74), Fellaini, Lingard, Mata (Ander Herrera 84), Martial, Rooney.
Subs Not Used: Depay, Januzaj, Romero, McNair, Andreas Pereira.
Goals: Rooney 16, Blind 65, Mata 83.
Man of the match: Anthony Martial
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)