Derby herald past glories with fanfare by Commons

Derby County 1 Manchester United 0

Under his father, old Big Head, defeating Manchester United was an expectation not a shock. But last night Nigel Clough, Derby's new manager, who takes the team for the first time this morning, watched as the Championship also-rans stunned the Champions of Europe to take a slim advantage into the second-leg of this Carling Cup semi-final.

Clough senior won the European Cup too, albeit with Nottingham Forest, twice, having also taken Derby to the competition's semi-finals, but something more modest is expected of his more modest son. Nevertheless it was a remarkable evening, all the more remarkable because Derby should have come away with a far superior advantage. The final should be firmly in their grasp.

Indeed how often has Sir Alex Ferguson been reduced to saying the following after a match? "It's a fantastic result for us considering the performance," before adding: "We could have lost four goals. I think we were lucky. Lucky to only lose 1-0." Lucky they were. Derby had two chances kicked off the goal-line, with Rob Hulse also firing over, from almost point-blank range, as they dominated. Rarely have United been so disjointed, so out-of-sorts, so ineffective.

But it was more remarkable than that. The attention was understandably on Nigel Clough but Derby, last night, were led, for the first and last time by David Lowe, the former striker, now the club's academy director who, until recently, was coaching the under-eights. Even then there was more to comment on with Lowe recalling Andy Todd, an outcast this season, along with others who have not figured such as Mo Camara and Mile Sterjovski. All played their part.

And it was the latter who teed up Derby's goal which was fiercely struck, from a full 27 yards, by the man-of-the-match Kris Commons. The fanfare was expected to be solely for Clough. Instead he shared it with the Commons man. Sweet music indeed with the winger, who played in behind Hulse, and ran riot, admitting afterwards that United might play "all their top boys" in the return leg at Old Trafford. But that claim was met with a riposte from the Derby – and former United – goalkeeper Roy Carroll who rightly pointed out that was the case by the final whistle last night.

Carroll had more to say, adding: "I think I didn't have a shot to save in the whole 90 minutes" which, amazingly, was true. Only once was he in trouble – when he watched, beaten, as Cristiano Ronaldo's free-kick dipped and spun close to the angle of post and cross-bar. Ronaldo came on, as did Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick, but to little effect. It was Derby's night and such was their determination, indefatigability and work-rate that they were not to be knocked out of their stride.

Ferguson denied that in two weeks time he will field a full-strength side, preferring to persevere with younger players and absolving Darron Gibson and Danny Wellbeck of blame even if the team he fielded yesterday was hardly a callow one. It was bad news, indeed, for Carlos Tevez who, newly-arrived from his break in Argentina, and with his future in increasing doubt, put in an abject display, looking a pale shadow of a £30m-plus acquisition.

And so Derby could do what Burnley failed to achieve the previous evening, holding onto a lead against a Premier League opponent, even if they have another 90 plus minutes to negotiate at Old Trafford, where Clough will be in the dug-out, if they are to, all so improbably, reach Wembley. What an occasion that would be for the Cloughs whose evening was awash with memories – and the odd moment of jest with the PA announcer playing XTC's "Making plans for Nigel" in his pre-match playlist.

He did not take to the field, did not take the applause but the effect was undeniable, as he took his seat in the directors box.

Clough had spoken to the players' beforehand and the response was immediate with Steve Davies, allowed to reach a hook back into the penalty box from a corner, pushing the ball past Tomasz Kuszcak only for Nemanja Vidic to block as he tried to force it home. Seconds later and a fierce half-volley from Sterjovski was hacked off the line by Jonny Evans with Kuszczak beaten.

Soon the goalkeeper was beaten again and, this time, Commons found the net. But United had an hour to respond. Surely they would? But they did not. Passes went astray, possession was surrendered, alarm spread. Ferguson looked, and was, shocked. "We didn't play well," he said. "We over-worried about the crossing and set piece play. We looked panicky at the back."

They did. Commons turned John O'Shea, his rebound setting up Hulse, after dragging a shot narrowly wide himself. Maybe, probably, those misses will be rued. Still, it should finally fire Derby's season and Clough, along with Lowe, can take credit for that as he entertained Ferguson in the manager's office last night.

Derby County (4-4-2): Carroll; Connolly, Todd (Savage, 87), Nyatanga, Camara; Sterjovski (Teale, 58), Addison, Green, Davies (Barazite, 80); Commons, Hulse. Substitutes not used: Bywater (gk), Dickinson, Powell, Hines.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Rafael, Vidic, Evans, O'Shea; Gibson, Anderson (Carrick, 74), Scholes (Ronaldo, 63), Nani; Wellbeck (Rooney, 63), Tevez. Substitutes not used; Amos (gk), Giggs, Fletcher, Possebon.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage