There was a moment, deep in injury time, when Jose Mourinho sank to his haunches and began to wince in disbelief.
With three points almost secured, all Manchester United — or, specifically, Paul Pogba — had to do was keep the ball. A simple pass was on to his right but, instead, the France World Cup winner gave it three yards to Everton left back Lucas Digne.
Here was an example of Bad Paul, the player who can’t be trusted in high pressure moments. In normal circumstances, you would have anticipated Mourinho’s theatrical reaction to be followed by verbal onslaught but, the thing was, Good Paul had been to the fore.
Manchester United (4-3-3): De Gea 7: Young 6.5, Lindelof 7, Smalling 6, Shaw 7: Fred 7 (Lingard 90+5mins), Matic 7, Pogba 7.5: Martial 8, Rashford 7 (Lukaku 65mins 5.5), Mata 6.5 (Herrera 85mins).
Subs not used: Sanchez, Rojo, Romero, Darmian.
Goals: Pogba 27, Martial 49
Bookings: Smalling, Matic
Manager: Jose Mourinho 7
Everton (4-2-3-1): Pickford 7.5: Coleman 6.5, Keane 6, Zouma 6, Digne 6.5: Gueye 6 (Tosun 78mins), Gomes 7: Walcott 6.5 (Calvert-Lewin 78mins), Sigurdsson 7, Bernard 6.5 (Lookman 62mins 6): Richarlison 7.
Subs not used: Baines, Mina, Stekelenburg, Davies.
Goals: Sigurdsson 77
Manager: Marco Silva
Referee: Jonathan Moss 7
Man of the Match: Martial
Pickford, not surprisingly, let rip at his defenders for not racing back to help. Everton, to that point, had been comfortable and it was needless way to fall behind – Idrissa Gueye’s weak, unorthodox attempt to halt Antony Martial’s progress invited the striker to go down.
Then, though, it seemed like it was all going to come together for Pogba. Suddenly those long legs started covering the ground one step to everyone else’s two; his passes were zipped in and always found the target, while he became to creeping in to dangerous areas undetected.
Why can’t it be like this all the time? From a physical perspective, he stood out like a beacon here, nobody could match his athleticism and strength and when he decided to move through the gears, those blue shirted pursuers must have felt like they trying to harness a galloping racehorse.
Pogba, not surprisingly, was instrumental in the goal that gave United breathing space. With the second period in its infancy, he shaped to shoot on the edge of Everton’s area but instead switched the play to Martial; his glorious 20-yard effort was in from the moment in left his right boot.
One question: why have United not secured him to a new contract? On this evidence, it will be a long time before Romelu Lukaku or Alexis Sanchez regain their places but the longer negotiations remain slow, the list of clubs watching Martial will continue to grow.
Their lead was deserved but, paradoxically, Everton had more than enough openings to add to the angst United have endured. In one 10 minute spell before the interval alone, Theo Walcott (twice) and Gylfi Sigurdsson had glorious chances but succeeded only in firing at David De Gea.
Everton should really have made this difficult for United. They arrived in Manchester on the back of a momentum-building three-match winning sequence and even after going two goals behind, they carved out an opening that should have led to the deficit being halved.
Richarlison, in the 52nd minute, found his compatriot Bernard and the elfin winger skipper around De Gea but, with the Scoreboard End goal gaping, he fired into the side netting, leaving Marco Silva shaking his head in dismay on the sidelines.