Manchester United’s top-four hopes took a huge hit at Goodison Park on Sunday as Everton played Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sorry side off the park.
Richarlison’s acrobatic finish started the rout following weak defending by United, and Gylfi Sigurdsson didn’t have to sweat shaking off Nemanja Matic before blasting a 35-yard piledriver past David De Gea.
Left-back Lucas Digne fizzed in a strike the equal of Sigurdsson’s in the second half before substitute Theo Walcott added the final insult in a one-on-one finish past De Gea.
Here’s our post-mortem …
FRED THE SORRY RED
Fred’s 45 minutes at Goodison Park was the mother of all clunkers – and he’s had more than a few in his first season with United.
The Brazilian is panic personified whenever his side do not have the ball. He didn’t seem to know how to position himself goal side when bullied by Richarlison for one early chance.
In another particularly comedic moment, the £52 million signing played the ball straight to a blue shirt from defence, and slipped over when facing the counter. Zero tackles, zero interceptions, 61-per-cent pass success rate – but a pair of fouls to show from it.
Matic was scarcely better, fully match fit or not, and his attempt to close down Sigurdsson would have been sneered at on a village league pitch.
You could of course have pointed to any player in the United XI on Sunday. But without excusing them, we know what Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial can do on their day.
Without a proper support network, including centre-backs who can take the ball into midfield and provide forward passing options under a press, the disconnect between attack and defence will continue.
This display was a fresh nadir, but who says it can’t get any lower?
EVERTON’S POLISHED SILVA
Everton’s line-up without the suspended Andre Gomes took on a veneer of respect for United, but Marco Silva’s tactics – however simple – were spot on.
Morgan Schneiderlin, Idrissa Gueye and Sigurdsson exploited United’s lack of both poise and accuracy when playing out of defence, while Bernard and the superlative Richarlison set about exploiting Diogo Dalot, a right-back playing on the left, and Victor Lindelof, a centre-back playing on the right.
What followed was utter humiliation for United, but the result in itself is no shock. Apart from a misstep against an already relegated Fulham last week, Everton have recently kept clean sheets against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front has acted like a lightning rod for defenders, giving Richarlison space to breathe out wide, aided by Bernard – one of the best free agent signings for a long time – and Sigurdsson just behind.
What you get is a relentless and compact side who possess enough wizardry to not just trouble high quality opponents, but beat them. You could in fact say that the Marco Silva formula is Mourinhoesque …
LAY OFF SOLSKJAER
The honeymoon is not only over for Solskjaer, but some fans are wishing United had arranged a pre-nup.
The last month has been nothing short of a catastrophe for the Norwegian, having lost six of the last eight games in all competitions.
Some blame undoubtedly has to be apportioned to Solskjaer. Asking Fred to perform a holding role – or in truth, much of anything at all – is folly at this stage, while playing your best centre-back in Lindelof on the flank.
What were the alternatives, though? Starting the universally maligned Ashley Young? Bringing back Matteo Darmian from Siberia or wherever he’s currently presiding? Expecting Andreas Pereira to have magically developed into a No.6 without playing?
Don’t lose of the sight that horrendous squad planning for the best part of a decade has given Solskjaer, and his predecessors, a disjointed and woefully top-heavy squad to work with.
Despite his horror run, Solskjaer has still won 12 more points than Jose Mourinho in as many games (17). This is United returning to the mean – and as it stands they are nothing more than an average side.
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