Date: 15th February 2009 at 7:54pm
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Lightning does not strike twice after all, even though Nigel Clough expressed his hopes to the contrary ahead of the FA Cup 5th round tie between Derby County and Manchester United today. The Derby boss hoped his side would be able to defy the odds again but this time United’s win was never in doubt.

Once again, the main man was Ryan Giggs who kept delivering majestic passes on which his teammates thrived. The best was possibly was his backheel to Ronaldo which the Portuguese, playing as a striker, duly converted only to the linesman to raise his flag minutes later, after a little chat with the referee. It was baffling why he had to wait so much before signalling; apparently he wasn’t certain that Giggs had touched the ball.

United were already 1-0 up by then thanks to the excellent Nani’s (how rarely we’ve been able to write this during the current season…) brilliant strike; and soon we went two up anyway when Ronaldo’s free-kick got deflected off the wall into the path of Gibson who lashed it home from the edge of the box.

His controversially disallowed goal seemed to annoy Ronaldo who came out to the second half in a mean mood. The fantastic travelling support sang ‘Viva Ronaldo’ after his disallowed goal and after his valid goal as well which came early in the second half: he did not even have to rise from the ground to meet Giggs’ corner and headed it home. Celebrations were unforgettable: Ronaldo imitated the linesman flagging for offside, Ferdinand copying him in order to make sure the guy with the flag gets the message…

Soon off went Evra (good performance on return from injury) and Park (should have scored in the first half but for a magnificent save) to be replaced by Welbeck and O’Shea. It took the wind out of United’s sail a bit and Derby came back into the game with a perfect header from Addison but they never really threatened to unsettle the visitors. The hectic pace of the early minutes of the second half when United created chance after chance was gone but it was clear that we were looking for another one, one that would be an icing on the cake.

And we got just that. Derby had their chances but Foster and the Rio-Evans pair stood firm and one of our counter-attacks yielded a devastating goal: after some fine one-touch football, Fletcher released Welbeck on the left of the box. The young Mancunian looked up and curled an absolutely brilliant effort into the far corner. Visiting support went wild but Danny barely managed a smile – he obviously wanted to be the height of cool.

All in all, it was a highly satisfactory game amid the somewhat dire run of 1-0 wins. United are through to the quarter-final of the FA Cup where we’ll visit either Fulham or Swansea. In the meantime, admire the majestic Ryan Giggs and salute all the youngsters (even Ronaldo is only 24, don’t forget) who excelled today.