Monday, 1 January 2018

Match report: Everton 0-2 United

The Reds ended a recent indifferent run of form and moved back up to second in the Premier League with a much improved display at Goodison Park on New Year's Day. United suffered a poor Christmas, with three successive draws and a mounting injury list, but the Reds made light work of Sam Allardyce's rejuvenated Toffees, and inflicted the hosts first home defeat under the tutelage of the much-travelled manager. 

There were three changes to the United side that had been held by Southampton only 48 hours previously, as Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial (who started up top), replaced the suspended Ashley Young, injured Romelu Lukaku and rotated Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Everton, meanwhile, lined up with three former Reds in the team, in the form of skipper and United legend Wayne Rooney, Michael Keane and Morgan Schneiderlin. 

In an evenly-contested encounter, both sides began brightly without really threatening a breakthrough. Paul Pogba tried his luck from distance with a drive, while Nikola Vlasic sent a header off target in a rare opening at the other end. In a flat and uneventful first half, clear cut chances were at a premium with the usually intimidatory Goodison Park atmosphere somewhat subdued.

The second half was in stark contrast to the first, however, as United started on the front foot and Everton soon found themselves pinned back. Jordan Pickford saved superbly from the impressive Juan Mata, and then - three minutes later - the diminutive Spaniard went close again when he beat Pickford but not the post. His 25-yarder thumped back off the woodwork and rebounded to safety. 

The Reds had significantly upped the ante and it was no surprise when, on 57 minutes, we made the breakthrough that had been coming since the interval. It was a lovely goal brimming with pace and power that came at the culmination of an incisive team move. Lingard found Pogba whom in turn picked out Martial, who took a touch and curled in from 20 yards for his ninth goal of the season. 

To their credit, Everton responded strongly to the setback of going behind, and should have equalised in their best spell of the game as United had to dig deep. Oumar Niasse headed wastefully wide when well placed, and Mason Holgate had a shot deflected behind as the Reds briefly came under pressure. 

We weathered the storm, though, and there was to be no repeat of the late lapse that saw us squander a lead at Leicester. With nine minutes remaining, United put the result beyond doubt when Pogba's surging run saw him find the red-hot and in-form Lingard who despatched a clinical finish beyond Pickford for his seventh goal in nine games. 

It was another excellent goal to add to Jesse's ever-lengthening showreel and ensured that the Reds put recent disappointments behind us for a welcome return to winning ways. 

Overall team performance: 7.5/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Paul Pogba. Two assists in an advanced role, a position he should make his own every week. Pulled the strings in another top quality performance. 

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