Man United went in front after 16 minutes played thanks to a superb effort from Rooney, who curled in past Derby keeper Scott Carson. However, United wasted opportunities to extend their advantage and Derby punished them as George Thorne poked past David de Gea to level things up.
Louis van Gaal’s side moved the ball about with purpose in the second half and were rewarded for their bright play when Blind arrowed home from Jesse Lingard’s ball into the box. Mata then sealed things for United but the goal owed a lot to Anthony Martial, who produced a superb run and ball into the box.
Rooney was subdued in the defeat against Southampton last time out but he has otherwise had an excellent start to 2016 and he continued his goalscoring form against Derby.
His strike was an excellent one; cutting inside from the left, Rooney wrapped his boot around the ball and it curled into the net. Rooney is finally playing like a United captain should and long may it continue.
Bizarre first half
For the majority of the first period, United supporters were in a party mood at Pride Park as their side put on a commanding performance.
All of the negativity that has surrounded the club in recent days was not in evidence on the pitch as United strung together numerous passes and carved open their opponents. It was excellent from van Gaal’s side but, crucially, they wasted a number of chances before Derby delivered a sucker punch in the form of Thorne’s equaliser. The atmosphere changed completely after that and it was all United’s own doing.
As supporters have come to expect this term, Martial was United’s main attacking threat.
His clever runs and mazy footwork saw him beat his man time and time again and, although he probably should have scored, his assist for Mata was world-class. For such a young man, it is scary how good Martial is.
The full-back duo were impressive at Pride Park, with both tirelessly running up and down their respective flanks.
Varela, in particular, was not afraid to get stuck in while Borthwick-Jackson provided a useful attacking outlet on the left. Both players have been thrown in the side under difficult circumstances but they handled the occasion well.
Van Gaal survives…for now
United played with a conviction and urgency that has been lacking in recent weeks but Derby did not provide much resistance on Friday save for a short spell in the first half.
Van Gaal should remain under the microscope despite his side’s improved performance. You get the sense that only a string of comfortable victories will be enough to alleviate the pressure on the Dutchman.