Manchester United got back to winning ways as Anthony Martial’s sensational second-half strike proved to be the difference in their 2-1 victory against Everton on Sunday.
Paul Pogba had given the hosts the lead after he tapped home the rebound when his penalty was saved by Jordan Pickford in the first-half. Martial, who struck twice in last week’s 2-2 draw at Chelsea, found the back of the net again when Pogba turned creator as the 22-year-old unleashed a curling effort into the bottom right-hand corner.
Gylfi Sigurdsson reduced the deficit after Everton were awarded a penalty but the Red Devils held on at Old Trafford for a deserved win.
Here are our United player ratings from Sunday’s clash:
David De Gea – No chance to save the penalty but played a crucial role to divert Bernard wide of the goal when the score was 2-0. 6
Ashley Young – Not his best display but got the job done. Contributed when going forward while he was also strong defensively, jointly leading United with two interceptions. 6
Chris Smalling – Exposed at times especially when Everton were on the counter-attack. Got a needless yellow card in the first-half while his poor challenge to give away the penalty summed up his performance. 4
Victor Lindelof – The Swede fared well against Juventus in mid-week and produced another decent defensive display that would have pleased Jose Mourinho. 6
Luke Shaw – Stopped any danger that came his way, keeping Theo Walcott quiet, while he also got forward in what was another confident display from the England left-back. 6
Fred – The Brazilian didn’t have any real attacking opportunities but linked up with play in the middle of the park to keep the play flowing and his energy helped get United on the front foot. 7
Nemanja Matic – Was caught for space at times but stuck to his task of keeping Richarlison and Sigurdsson quiet, even if it meant a yellow card. 6
Paul Pogba – One of the Frenchman’s best displays for United this season. Gave the hosts the lead, even if it was a poor penalty, but bombed forward at every attacking opportunity. Provided the assist for Martial although he was at fault for conceding the penalty by initially giving the ball away. 7
Juan Mata – Another consistent performance from the Spaniard. Playing on the right-wing, created opportunities and caused Everton problems. 6
Marcus Rashford – Recalled to the starting XI, the youngster occupied the centre-forward position and kept the Everton defence busy. Should have found the net at least once but it was a positive showing from the England international. 6
Anthony Martial – Another game, another big impact. The 22-year-old is justifying his selection by showing his potential once again. Lively on the wing by dipping in crosses in the danger area, the Frenchman proved he can also be prolific in front of goal with a sensational curling solo strike. 8
Romelu Lukaku – Came on just after the hour and kept Everton’s defence occupied, but his goal-scoring instinct was once again lacking, failing to connect with a header. 6
Ander Herrera – Replaced Juan Mata but there was little for him to do in the last minutes apart from patrol the midfield. 6
Jesse Lingard – On for Fred in what was a cameo appearance in stoppage time. N/A
Jose Mourinho dropped the goal-shy Romelu Lukaku for this game and the bulky Belgian’s absence ushered in a joyful and fluid display that bristled with ingenuity and flair.
Anthony Martial was excellent and had a hand in both goals – drawing the foul for the first that led to a penalty, dispatched at the second attempt by Paul Pogba, while he curled in delightfully to make it 2-0 in the second half.
A second penalty was awarded for Chris Smalling’s clumsy foul on Richarlison – Gylfi Sigurdsson scored it to give the Blues some hope, but United were deserving winners.
Here is our report card from the clash.
With the knives out once again for Mourinho following a lifeless performance in midweek against an admittedly talented Juventus, this appeared a huge opportunity for an Everton side finally finding their feet under Marco Silva.
And while they started brightly, they were unable to sustain it once United got into an unfamiliar attacking groove. Martial is in a rich vein of form and always posed a threat. Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford, 21 on Wednesday, looks a more mature player this season and was bright starting centrally instead of the out-of-sorts Lukaku – even if he experienced more joy when drifting out to the channels.
Familiar failings – namely a horribly below par and confidence-sapped defence – threatened to expose them once again, but United’s swashbuckling attacking approach earned them a deserved three points.
United’s attack – Whether it was the injection of freshness and pace shot into United’s arm by the lethargic Lukaku being dropped or Martial’s improved form, the hosts played with a freedom and ferociousness rarely seen these days.
It appeared as if the handbrake of Mourinho’s usual tactics had been well and truly released as red waves of United attacks washed down on the men in blue – especially after the opening goal which prompted the noise levels inside Old Trafford to ratchet up significantly.
Martial – The last few weeks have seen the fantastic yet frustrating Frenchman operating at his very best. Two goals against Chelsea and a hand in two here – the finish for his strike was sublime and a technique not many can pull off.
He ran menacingly at Seamus Coleman – one of the league’s best right-backs – all day and was always an outlet. His pace was too much for Idrissa Gueye, tempted into a risky challenge that led to the penalty. He’s such a special talent, but a few flashes here and there aren’t enough. He needs to produce like this more regularly.
United’s defending – For all their glittering attacking play, the home side’s defending left a lot to be desired. Luke Shaw was again solid while Victor Lindelof – in pure defending terms – kept Everton’s dangermen in check. But their positioning left a lot to be desired and Smalling’s reckless lunge on Richarlison was horrifically mistimed.
The United back line was often too high up the pitch or too withdrawn, while Ashley Young’s calamitous call to try and play Bernard offside really should have earlier resulted in the visitors making it 2-1. After going 2-0 up, United should have tightened up. Instead, they looked in danger of being ripped open.
Toffees unable to stick to United – Everton asked plenty of questions of United, but up until they were handed a lifeline by Smalling’s stupendous error, a path back into the game looked unlikely to be found. Richarlison was unable to pose much of a threat, while Theo Walcott was utterly anonymous.
TACTICAL TURNING POINT
Legs around Matic – Quite why Fred has been overlooked in recent weeks is puzzling. The Brazilian has looked a little like a fish out of water in his early months in England, struggling to adjust to the pace of the Premier League. But he possesses a tremendous engine and boundless energy, while he also has an eye for a pass.
His inclusion – alongside the struggling Nemanja Matic and undisciplined Paul Pogba – often offered United’s defence an easy out and stymied Sigurdsson’s effectiveness.
MAN UNITED: B+
Mourinho’s side still look horrendously suspect in defence, especially up against pace, but the Portuguese was rewarded for placing his faith in the hands, or rather feet, of his potent attackers. This must be his modus operandi moving forward.
This felt like a real opportunity missed for Silva’s visitors. Or did they simply come up against a United side finally casting aside their defensive-minded tactical shackles and embracing their traditional attacking instincts? Either way, they got what they deserved.
Romelu Lukaku has been dropped by Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.
The misfiring striker, who last found the net in a 2-1 win over Watford in September – his fourth of the season – has been dropped for the visit of his old club Everton, with Marcus Rashford instead preferred as the central striker.
There are two changes made by Mourinho in all from the side that lost in midweek to Juventus in the Champions League – with Fred coming in to a midfield three. Jesse Lingard, meanwhile, was on the bench after missing several weeks with injury.