Jose Mourinho United squad have some genuine quality at his disposal. At Goodison Park, Manchester United managed to lift some of their Christmas and New Year set-back thanks to two brilliant goals from Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard.
This was not an entirely convincing United performance. They were very poor in the first half, lacking energy and any kind of confidence.
But improvement did come and the two second half goals gave them a victory they very much deserved against an Everton team that was very disappointing indeed.
Both goals came from distance and both were memorable. Martial’s scored in the 57th minute, delivered in to the top left corner of Jordan Pickford’s goal by his right instep. Then, after United had weathered a brief rally from Sam Allardyce’s Everton, Lingard struck from even further out, a superb shot struck across Pickford and in to the very same corner of the goal found earlier by Martial.
Pickford is a good young goalkeeper and had a good game here once again. But there was nothing he could have done to prevent either of these two shots flying past him.
Mourinho will be relieved. After consecutive draws against Leicester, Burnley and Southampton, this victory elevates United back in to second above Chelsea who face a tough game at Arsenal on Wednesday.
As for Everton, this is two defeats on the spin. Allardyce’s team looked worn out here.
There has been much talk this Christmas and New Year about the toll the fixture schedule takes on Premier League players. Here in a flat first half there appeared to be some evidence of it.
United were certainly very poor, lacking in conviction and sheer presence. Mourinho’s team were very passive indeed for the most part. Everton, meanwhile, were not a lot better although they did enjoy slightly more of he ball.
Both teams were much changed, United largely out of necessity. With strikers Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahomovic both injured, we had expected to see Marcus Rashford given a rare outing in his favoured centre forward position. As it was, Martial was given that task while Victor Lindelof was Mourinho’s solution to his right-back problem.
For Everton, their captain Wayne Rooney played deep and central in a side that was without creative players like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Aaron Lennon but did feature Yannick Bolasie, fit again after a serious knee injury.
Early on Everton were the better side. Rooney was regularly involved, passing the ball wisely and seeking to get forward when he could, while the talented Nikola Vlasic was also troubling United with his intelligent running and use of the ball.