United left it late to secure a fully deserved victory over their Championship opponents and ensure progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup. A frustrating replay looked on the cards with the Reds repeatedly repelled by a combination of the woodwork and the Rams in-form stopper Scott Carson. That was until Jesse Lingard - again - broke the deadlock with a stunning strike, his eighth in ten games.
Substitute Romelu Lukaku put the result beyond doubt with a late counter-attacking clincher to send United safely through to the next round of a competition we won two seasons ago. The Reds started strongly and went close early on as in-form duo Paul Pogba and Lingard almost linked up for the opener, but the latter fired narrowly over the bar. Pogba then went close himself from distance but Derby, second in the Championship and pushing for promotion, had not come merely to defend and sit back.
Former United Academy graduate Tom Lawrence was impressive throughout and soon tested Sergio Romero with a drive, but the stand-in stopper saved well.
Marcus Rashford went close and Juan Mata's 20 yarder was tipped out by Carson, before Romero did likewise at the other end from a looping Marcus Olsson header. In truth, United should then have made the breakthrough courtesy of Rashford, but he could only head against a post having been picked out by Henrikh Mkhitaryan's pinpoint cross.
Carson had been the busier keeper and was called into action again shortly before the break, this time from a Pogba free-kick, which he acrobatically tipped over the top at full-stretch to ensure the tie remained finely poised at the interval.
Tom Huddlestone went close with a deflected effort for the visitors, before Mata shot straight at Carson and Pogba flashed a shot narrowly wide at the other end. In an increasingly end-to-end encounter, Lawrence tried his luck from 30 yards and Romero saved down low, and then Pogba had a shot well held by Carson as both sides were restricted to efforts from range.
United continued to press with Derby again indebted to their four-time capped England keeper, who denied Lingard and substitute Anthony Martial, before Rashford hit the post again for a second time. The Reds had laid siege to the visitors goal without success but, with an unwanted replay a real possibility, the long-threatened breakthrough finally arrived six minutes from the end.
It needed something special to beat the heroic Carson, and Lingard - in the form of his life - duly obliged with a dipping drive from 25 yards having been picked out by Lukaku for his eleventh goal of the season and eighth in his last ten matches. Lukaku himself then put the game to bed in the final minute on the counter-attack, as, with Derby pushed up in search of an equaliser, the Reds broke from deep. The substitute Belgian pulled the ball down on the halfway line, played a nice one-two with Martial and slotted beyond the advancing Carson to rubber-stamp the result.
The draw for the fourth round takes place on Monday.
Overall team performance: 7.5/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Messi Lingardinho