From the opening whistle to the closing three, United looked flat, negative, and altogether putrid against Derby. Derby took a 1-0 lead after a Kris Commons laser on the half hour mark.
United looked unorganized, and shell shocked for the majority of the match.
Derby came out fired up, and were running around challenging every ball, and United looked like they weren't prepared. The squad Sir Alex chose looked similar to the one who started against Southampton on the weekend. Rafael replaced Neville, Gibson was wide on the right, with Scholes and Anderson in the center and Nani on the left. As expected, Carlos Tevez started up front with Danny Welbeck.
Derby played to win this game, and United looked like they came to Pride Park hoping to knock the ball around and make it a possession game. What they got was something entirely different. Not only did Derby control a lot of the possession, they challenged nearly every United pass and moved the ball forward effectively throughout the game.
Arguably United's best chance came just seconds after the Derby goal when Welbeck centered for a wide open Paul Scholes on top of the box, who in turn fired wide. The ball from Welbeck left a lot to be desired, trapping Scholes in his stride instead of letting him run on to it.
From then on the game was bogged down with Derby forcing United to move forward through the center instead of the wings. Tevez looked flat after returning from Argentina. Paul Scholes did not run the midfield like he usually does. Welbeck seemed non-existent. Nani's work rate was good, but he didn't do much other than whip some poor crosses in.
Rooney and Ronaldo came on with just under a half an hour left to play, and that didn't do much either. So Derby County were able to secure their first home victory over United in history and—of more consequence—take a one goal lead to Old Trafford in 13 days time.
Perhaps SAF and United were doing exactly what I said they couldn't do. That was overlook the significance of a loss in this game and look ahead to the big fixture on Sunday at Old Trafford against Chelsea.