Van Gaal refuses to get excited as United win at Derby
Manchester United's players eased some of the pressure on manager Louis van Gaal with an improved display in their 3-1 FA Cup fourth round win at Derby.
A brilliant Wayne Rooney goal in the first half and additional strikes from Daley Blind and Juan Mata eased United through to the next round of a competition that could now take on huge significance in their troubled season.
A Wembley win for Van Gaal in next May's FA Cup final, with the under-pressure Dutchman praising his players after a vital win.
"It was maybe better than we had trained," he told the BBC.
"We played at the right time against the resistance of Derby. We gave their goal away but at half-time I said that it was a good performance, keep it up and we will win. And we did.
"The Premier League is very important but the FA Cup is the greatest cup in England with a long and important history.
"We haven't won it for a long time so we dream of it. After two wins you can't say that we will win it.
"I'm very happy. The result and the performance was good. The confidence is back."
Mata (below) suggested it was a big night for United, as they secured a win that will boost their fragile morale.
"It was really important for us to win," stated the Spaniard.
"It is not easy to come here, even though they are not in the Premier League, they are a good team and are physically strong, like to press, and I think we did a good job.
"We came here to play football and play quicker and create more chances to score."
United legend and guest BBC TV pundit Peter Schmeichel suggested this win against Derby had saved United's season, but the pressure will be back on Van Gaal when his side take on Stoke on Tuesday night.
For now, Van Gaal can claim he has fended off his critics yet again, but success in the Premier League needs to be added to their progress in the FA Cup.
At least this was a better performance from United and for that, their suffering supporters will be grateful.