Friday, March 1, 2024

Everton 0-3 Manchester United: Talking points as Red Devils continue form upturn at Goodison Park

Embed from Getty Images

Manchester United beat Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday by 0-3, with Alejandro Garnacho scoring a stunning opener within three minutes, Marcus Rashford adding the second goal from the penalty spot in the 56th, after former United fullback Ashley Young brought down Anthony Martial inside the box, and Martial himself setting the final score in the 75th.

The game

The scoreline at the end of the game may suggest a comfortable United triumph, but it was arguably harsh on the Toffees who actually put up a decent fight to try and match the 20-time English champions on the pitch.

The stats back that up, with Everton having the ball at their feet for 51% of the total playing time and taking a total of 24 shots, six of which went on target. United took just nine, four on target, but the three that went in were taken in such a manner that Jordan Pickford couldn’t do anything about any of them.

Just over two minutes in, Rashford engaged Diogo Dalot on the right, and the Portuguese sent an outswinging cross to the far side of the box, where Garnacho caught it with a beautiful scissor-kick and hit the far top corner. Pickford flew through the air and stretched to his full length, but there was no stopping that shot. It was very reminiscent of the spectacular goal Wayne Rooney scored in the Manchester Derby in February 2011, and it was no great surprise to see the comparisons between the two strikes in the media straight away.

That’s when the home side obviously decided to take things seriously. In the 10th minute, Dominic Calvert-Lewin threatened dangerously off the right flank as he turned Victor Lindelof inside-out and blasted on target, but Andre Onana was ready for it. The United keeper thwarted the same player again in the 31st, saving his header, and then a minute later by parrying his shot into the path of Dwight McNeil. He then saved McNeil’s shot as well, though the ball bounced off Harry Maguire and came very close to going in, enabling 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo to make his full Premier League debut memorable with a goal-line clearance.

Embed from Getty Images

Everton’s high pressing almost paid off after another minute as Vitaliy Mykolenko and McNeil robbed Rashford with a joint effort before the latter set Abdoulaye Doucoure up for a great chance, but the midfielder’s unobstructed shot from close to the penalty spot flew wide of the target. Calvert-Lewin looked very lively, and in the 41st minute, he rose through the air to reach a cross coming in from the right, but his header went over the bar. Everton won the ball back within seconds and he threatened again, charging towards the box. He engaged Doucoure who left it for the incoming Idrissa Gana Gueye, but all the former PSG midfielder managed to do was to blast it far from the target.

United finally hit back at the start of the second half, and after Scott McTominay missed the target from range, Bruno Fernandes threaded a fine pass to take Martial into the box through the middle, and the French striker went down. Referee John Brooks initially believed Martial had dived and booked him for it, but a VAR review showed Martial was tripped by Young and it made Brooks reverse his decision. Rashford took the penalty without mercy, and Young was very lucky considering he was already on a yellow card when it happened.

Undetterred, Everton continued their attacking efforts and came very close through Gueye in the 58th minute, but Onana managed to divert his shot over the bar. Another 13 minutes later, United hit on the counterattack through Rashford, who broke down the left and found Garnacho on the far post, but the young winger couldn’t get there in time and his lunging effort missed the target.

But then came that moment in the 75th minute when the contest was settled beyond all doubt. Martial instigated another quick United move, engaging substitute Facundo Pellistri on the right. The teenager involved Fernandes on his inner side, and the Portuguese playmaker repeated the pass which previously led to the penalty, finding Martial breaking into the box again. This time there was nobody there to stop the Frenchman – the gap between the Everton centre-backs was far too wide, and he didn’t find it hard to chip the onrushing Pickford and score the third goal for his team.

Everton still weren’t giving up and in the 77th minute, Mykolenko hit the bar with a powerful effort. Everton boss Sean Dyche chose to give young Youssef Chermiti a chance late on as it became quite clear in wouldn’t be Calvert-Lewin’s evening, but the 19-year-old striker brought no change. He had a go from range at the start of the stoppage time and narrowly missed the target, and that was about it.

The best chance the home side had to score a consolation goal fell to Jack Harrison almost four minutes after the 90 had expired, but as the winger tried to poke home from close range after a scramble in United’s box, the joint effort of Onana and Lindelof saved the visitors’ net.

Controversies

There’s rarely a game in the Premier League these days without any contested calls from the officials, and it wasn’t the case this time either. Young and Dyche both looked livid when Brooks went to the pitch-side screen and subsequently awarded the United penalty.

But in all fairness, the foul was pretty easy to spot from several angles, and Young should actually thank the referee for not showing him what would’ve been his second yellow card, for the foul, or the subsequent protests. As experienced as he is at 39, Young should know better than to tempt his fate in such a manner, especially after sent off in the 37th minute of the Merseyside Derby in October.

There was also a bit of controversy which lasted for a large part of the game. Everton fans displayed their dissatisfaction with the Premier League in their first match following the club’s 10-point deduction due to a breach of FFP rules. The majority of home supporters were seen holding pink ‘Corrupt’ leaflets featuring the league’s logo, distributed outside the stadium.

Embed from Getty Images

There were also vehement boos directed at the Premier League anthem during the pre-match rituals, nearly drowning it out amidst the resounding whistles. The fans once more exhibited the ‘Corrupt’ leaflets at the 10th-minute mark.

Everton have appealed against the points deduction, and the final outcome is yet to come.

The aftermath

But for the time being, Everton are without those 10 points and unless they get at least some them back, they face a bitter struggle for Premier League survival. Right now, they share the bottom of the Premier League table with Burnley, each with four points to their name, though the Toffees still have a better goal-difference.

Luton Town are 17th with nine points, and Sheffield United are 18th with five. The stage looks set for these four teams – Luton, Sheffield United, Everton and Burnley – to battle it out for that last place to provide survival at the end of the season. But for the time being, there’s nothing for Dyche and his men to do but focus on next weekend and the trip to Nottingham.

Meanwhile, United have been exposed to much criticism after a very poor start to the season, with reports even suggesting manager Erik ten Hag might lose his job soon. There have been off-the-pitch incidents too, most notably with Jadon Sancho who has been removed from the squad, and Antony who had to answer criminal charges for domestic violence.

But it’s quite clear that the Devils have managed to turn the page and keep it turned. This was their sixth victory in the last seven Premier League matches. They only lost one in that span – to city rivals and last season’s treble winners, Manchester City. They beat Brentford, Sheffield United, Fulham, Luton, and now Everton. United are now sixth, just two points off top four, and six points behind Arsenal at the top.

But the next three matches should give a clearer picture about where exactly United are at this point. They will travel to Turkey to face Galatasaray in the Champions League this week, then to St James’ Park to face Newcastle, before welcoming Chelsea to Old Trafford.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

SHARE OR COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE

WE RECOMMEND

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This field is required *

Join the conversation!

or Register

More More
Top