Cristiano Ronaldo’s 700th club goal helped Manchester United to an impressive 2-1 win over Everton on Sunday night, a victory that was well-earned after going behind in the opening five minutes through a classy Alex Iwobi strike.
The Red Devils had controlled possession at ease in the early stages of the contest before Casemiro was caught on the ball in the midfield, which allowed Everton’s attacking talent to pounce as Iwobi curled an unstoppable effort into the top right corner beyond David De Gea in the 5th minute.
Goodison Park was a cauldron as the home fans watched their ideal start play out, but United did well to regain their composure and control the ball for large parts of the first half, no doubt aided by Everton’s sloppiness.
That sloppiness was a key factor in the equalising goal, too, with Idrissa Gueye making an error in the middle of the park that allowed Anthony Martial to slip Antony in down the right. The Brazilian was faultless in the move, placing the ball round Jordan Pickford and into the bottom left corner to make it three goals in three Premier League games for the new signing in the 15th minute.Embed from Getty Images
Sadly, that was to be Martial’s last major contribution as the Frenchman headed straight down the tunnel with what appeared to be another muscle injury. He was replaced by Ronaldo- hardly a bad option off the bench.
Casemiro had a hands-on-head moment after making a delightful run into the box- totally unmarked- but the Brazilian nodded his header wide in what was a major let-off for Everton.
The midfielder made up for his woes minutes before half-time, however, with a strong tackle in his own half before he played Ronaldo in down the left of the attack. There was only one outcome from there, with Ronaldo drilling the ball low past Jordan Pickford to score his 700th club goal in his career and his first at Goodison Park.Embed from Getty Images
The Portuguese later set up Rashford with a header for what appeared to be the points-securing goal in the last ten minutes, but VAR deemed the England international to have handled the ball as it came up off James Tarkowski on the last line of defence before he rounded Pickford and slotted it home.
Frank Lampard brought on Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Salomon Rondon as he looked to throw crosses into the box and grab a point, but the solid red defence survived a late onslaught and saw the game out well. Special mention to De Gea for a finger-tip save in the dying moments, which even saw Pickford get involved in the action.
Final Score: Everton 1-2 Manchester United (Iwobi 5’) (Antony 15’, Ronaldo 44’)
Man of the matchEmbed from Getty Images
There were lots of solid showings for United in Merseyside, but Casemiro really stood out as the best of the bunch.
It was not always easy on the eye with the former Real Madrid man; it was him who was caught in possession for the Everton goal and there were a couple of sloppy passes across the game. His contribution to the team was priceless, though.
The tackle and subsequent assist for Ronaldo was exactly what you want from your holding midfielder. He could even have scored himself after a darting run forward. The 30-year-old broke up the play countless times across the match, which is exactly what he is in there to do.
The Brazilian notched up 69 passes against Everton, helping his side to 61% possession. McTominay and Fred average around 30 per game, usually helping the Reds to around 50% of the ball. It just shows what a specialist defensive midfielder who wants the ball can bring.
Hopefully, there is more to come from Casemiro. Consistency is the key.
The bigger pictureEmbed from Getty Images
The performance is exactly what Ten Hag would have wanted to see after demolition in the derby against Manchester City last weekend and an unconvincing win against Omonia Nicosia on Thursday.
Fans have seen United crumble so far under the new manager after going a goal behind, but the players kept their cool and managed to silence a roaring home crowd by controlling the ball and creating progressive passages of play.
De Gea had very little to do in goal, with the defence looking assured when called upon. Fans worried about the absence of Varane, but Lindelof was faultless throughout. Casemiro showed supporters why he can make that position his own in the midfield, and Eriksen and Fernandes looked better after a rough week for the pair. There was another goal for Antony as both himself and Rashford gave hardworking performances. It was relief for Ronaldo after a frustrating campaign so far, too.
The manager showed his authoritarian methods work to good effect; Shaw looked rejuvenated at left-back having had to wait for his opportunity to come. Competition for places is exactly what the club have lacked in recent years, so fans should welcome the manager’s approach of chopping and changing based off performance levels.Embed from Getty Images
The only standout negative is Martial. It is a third injury after just eight games this season for the Frenchman, who is only 26-years-old. He is an asset to the squad, so it is sad to see him so injury prone as he approaches his prime years. Fans can only hope he can turn his bad fitness fortunes around.
The result leaves United 5th on 15 points, with Chelsea (4th on 16 points) and Spurs (3rd on 20 points) the nearest ahead. Interestingly, the Reds face both those sides consecutively after their next league fixture.
What is next?
Next up for Ten Hag and United is Omonia Nicosia in the Europa League this coming Thursday at Old Trafford, which is 13th October, kicking off at 20:00 (BST).
After that it is another home game against Newcastle United the following Sunday, also at Old Trafford, with the team kicking off at 14:00 (BST) on 16th October.