There was razzmatazz, a “Welcome to the Jungle” soundtrack” and no fairy tale for Wayne Rooney. Instead of a script with Manchester United’s record goalscorer haunting them for Derby, the visitors ruined the Rooney party and Odion Ighalo signalled he may have a future at Old Trafford beyond his temporary deal.
As with the latter days of his 13-year United career Rooney was glimpsed only around the edges of a match that ended with his former club securing passage to Norwich for a quarter-final, and Ighalo the scorer of two goals to take his tally to three.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær made six changes from Sunday’s draw at Everton, the headline a rolled ankle that ruled out Harry Maguire of the tie and possibly, Sunday’s Manchester derby, too.
United were unbeaten in eight matches, the home side the winners of one in five, though this was Saturday’s victory at Sheffield Wednesday.
Pride Park had a kind of heavy-metal start that matched the noise fans created. Victor Lindelof made a simple error, handing the ball to Max Lowe and the left-back speared in a cross.
At the other end Rooney’s opening contribution was to slide – blood-and-thunder style – into Scott McTominay, which drew raucous cheers.
The contest had a vibrancy personified by Louie Sibley’s thrust forward and shot.
After Solskjær remonstrated with McTominay for loose play, United awoke. Bruno Fernandes fed the excellent Luke Shaw along the left to earn a corner.
Derby broke via the livewire Sibley and Shaw ended the race by upending him and drawing a booking. The free-kick was in prime Rooney territory and his curled attempt circumvented the wall and required a diving Sergio Romero to steer it around his right post.
Fernandes has become United’s driving force since joining in January so there was relief in the ranks when, after lying on the pitch following a clash with Craig Forsyth, the midfielder was able to continue.
United gained more control but still reached for the requisite slickness. Fernandes was a blur of runs, making demands for service and for teammates to switch on to his wavelength. Even when Juan Mata found Odion Ighalo to force Kelle Roos to save, the pass was a rebound off the Spaniard.
All of this was forgotten when United took the lead. A Fernandes shot came back off Roos and Shaw drilled home, via the ground and possibly Lingard’s back, for his second United – and career – goal.
This had the jubilant travelling support singing “Que sera sera, we’re going to Wembley” and Derby’s mood was about to be punctured further. Shaw dazzled with some dancing feet that took him into space before feeding Ighalo, and now, came an expert finish: the centre-forward wriggling between two defender then shooting past Roos for his second goal since his winter window loan move.
It enhanced the impression that the Nigerian’s signing was shrewd business from United. What they needed in the second half was to show smart game-management.
One mode is to operate up near the opponent’s goal: the sight of Fernandes hitting McTominay’s head with a corner was a good start. And the way Mata, Diogo Dalot and McTominay pinged the ball between them a little later augured well, too.
Even when Jaydon Bogle swept a pass from his right corridor to Jason Knight on the left United eased Derby gradually back via the pressing of Eric Bailly. Shaw – doing a fair impersonation of Roberto Carlos – slalomed through Derby again and came close to adding a third.
It was heartening to hear the United faithful regaling their former hero – a memorable moment for him, even if this was because their side were coasting.
With an eye on the derby Solskjær took off Fernandes for Andreas Pereira and Phillip Cocu soon swapped Martyn Waghorn for Jack Marriott.
It became a night to remember for Ighalo via the rocket he hit into the roof of the net with 20 minutes remaining. This was followed by a nonchalant jig of celebration that found a mirror image from those in the away section.
At final whistle United were content and Rooney wandered off disappointed, though he had warmed Romero’s fingers with a late free-kick.