In the week since the Red Devils' demoralising loss to Southampton at Old Trafford, speculation has been rife that Van Gaal offered his resignation in the aftermath, a claim he slammed, per ESPN FC's Richard Jolly.
Friday offered a chance to get back to the actual football, with Manchester United looking to advance to the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Things got off to a good enough start for the visitors, with Wayne Rooney hitting home a beautifully curled shot to give his team an early lead.
For all of the criticism heaped on the Englishman this season, it was his sixth goal in six games.
A return to form?:
That was so 2010 Rooney.— Tatiana MUFC (@TatianaMUFC) January 29, 2016
3 - Wayne Rooney has now scored in as many away games in 2016 as he did in 2015 (3). Improvement.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 29, 2016
Love that Wazza!!— Ashley Young (@youngy18) January 29, 2016
Wayne Rooney’s last six games:— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) January 29, 2016
With the Red Devils fully in charge of the game and threatening to stretch the lead, Derby County sneaked in and found an equaliser against the run of play:
37' - Derby 1 United 1. Out of nowhere, the home side grab an equaliser as George Thorne pokes past De Gea. #mufc— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 29, 2016
The assist in the buildup to George Thorne's goal was quite good:
Derby-taka— James Tyler (@JamesTylerESPN) January 29, 2016
Manchester United's defence and goalkeeper David De Gea also fell under criticism for the goal:
De Gea, could he have done better?— ReviewFootball (@ReviewFootball) January 29, 2016
United looked incredibly comfortable after Rooney gave them the lead but Derby level with first attack. https://t.co/zKO4d8Oi0q— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) January 29, 2016
United's attack clicked into gear in the second half, as goals from Daley Blind and Juan Mata spelled relief for the visitors, not only to see away their Championship-level competition but also for a few hints of real-life attacking football.
That's something that's been rarely seen under Van Gaal this season:
Real sense of adventure from Blind to carry on his run into the box.— James Robson (@JamesRobsonMEN) January 29, 2016
It's a good job Daley Blind has salon quality hair.— Paddy Power (@paddypower) January 29, 2016
Juan Mata: Has scored his first goal since November (vs West Brom), ending a goalless run of 14 matches for Man Utd #DCFCvMUFC— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 29, 2016
For a day, at least, the criticism will be off Louis van Gaal and his much-publicised "philosophy:"
When you're the first team into the next round of the FA Cup...https://t.co/pNmx78yt2L— JOE.co.uk (@JOE_co_uk) January 29, 2016