Daley Blind scored a crucial second half goal to help Manchester United to a 3-1 win at Derby County that secures safe passage into the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Wayne Rooney had earlier opened the scoring with a brilliant curling effort, but George Thorne grabbed an equaliser for the hosts eight minutes before half time.
Blind broke Derby’s stubborn resistance with 25 minutes remaining following good work by Jesse Lingard, before Juan Mata then added the third late on to relieve the growing pressure on boss Louis van Gaal.
United, as they have in most matches this season, dominated possession early on in the fourth-round encounter. It was not quite the laborious fare often served up by Van Gaal’s team in recent months, but United did not muster an effort at goal nonetheless.
However, they 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.
It was a rare moment of quality in the first half as both teams struggled in the final third, although Martial looked a threat and might have done better with his final pass on a couple of occasions.
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.
The second half began in much the same vein as the first, with United dominating and Martial looking menacing.
Blackman sent a curling shot narrowly over the crossbar while at the other end Martial and Jesse Lingard combined well but Mata directed his header, from Lingard’s deflected cross, wide from just 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, in front of their largest away following of the season, 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 – much to the delighted of the 5,460 travelling fans – and Van Gaal.