Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial star for Manchester United at Derby
On Friday, Manchester United came up against a Derby County side struggling for form and in the end the visitors overwhelmed by their hosts with a blend of speed, skill and movement in attack. United's 3-1 win featured three goals from open play and five shots on target, which given the team's recent form, amounted to a bounty.
It also featured another lively performance from Wayne Rooney, narrowly edged out for the man-of-the-match award by the irrepressible Anthony Martial. It was not all good news; the team were worryingly exposed in midfield by the wandering Marouane Fellaini. But the next round of the FA Cup awaits, and the club's supporters ended this match much more cheerful than in recent weeks.
Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK David De Gea, 7 -- Could not prevent Derby's goal and otherwise cleared his lines with authority throughout, claiming awkward catches and making sharp stops as the weather worsened.
DF Guillermo Varela, 7 -- Assured throughout, and made one superb stooping clearance, heading clear as an attacker's boot flailed towards the ball. Made very good efforts on the overlap in support of Jesse Lingard.
DF Chris Smalling, 7 -- Was caught out of position for Derby's equaliser but played the ball out of defence as well as he has in some time, and made vital interceptions when called upon.
DF Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, 7 -- Not as spectacular as Luke Shaw -- then again, who is? -- but could develop into an effective understudy. On one occasion in the second half he read a potentially dangerous through-ball with ease, showing his eye for an unfolding attack. Got forward well, in what was another encouragingly mature showing.
DF Daley Blind, 7 -- Arrived late in the box to supply a fine finish for United's second goal, a form of redemption after he was caught a little flat-footed for Derby's equaliser. Passed the ball with typical confidence and accuracy, and dealt comfortably with most of his challenges.
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MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 6 -- A mixed performance. He was very fine in defence for much of the first half, making a cluster of important interceptions, but not so good with his distribution, and was then too high up the pitch when Derby broke for their goal. Was overworked in midfield, given that Fellaini was too often far forward.
MF Marouane Fellaini, 5 -- Unsure in his touch and slow in decision-making when in possession, he did not track back when United needed him to, denying the dynamism they require in this area. Made some good defensive clearances with his head and held the ball up well with his chest, but did not do enough on the floor.
MF Jesse Lingard, 6 -- Had a poor first half, exemplified by a drive that he sliced for a throw-in, but raised his game considerably in the second half and was rewarded with a fine assist for Blind's crucial go-ahead goal. A performance that spoke volumes for his character.
MF Juan Mata, 7 -- Like Lingard, he had a very slow start to this game, which saw him slow to pick out good passes in the final third and dithering on the edge of his own box, a moment that could have led to a Derby goal. Despite this, he did not hide from possession, and kept getting forward, with a smart and match-winning finish the result.
MF Anthony Martial, 8 -- The game's outstanding player. Derby's defenders will watch his departure on the team bus with particular relish. He attacked his full-back relentlessly, surging time and again to the byline. Once or twice he overran the ball, but he was mostly sublime, beating his man almost at will and combining beautifully with Rooney in particular. A night in which he showed his elite talent.
MF Wayne Rooney, 8 -- Scored a superb opening goal and looked sharp in touch and movement throughout, spreading the play with an ease that makes some believe that his best position is at No. 10. When he ran he did not look remotely heavy-legged, and led the line as effectively as he has all season.
MF Michael Carrick, NR -- Came on for Schneiderlin in the 74th minute to shore up the midfield, but had an awkward moment of his own, almost pressed into making a serious mistake on the edge of his own box. Otherwise fine.
MF Ander Herrera, NR -- Came on for Mata in the 84th minute. Too late to make a true impression.
Musa Okwonga is a football author, poet, musician, broadcaster and social commentator. He is on Twitter @Okwonga.