Manchester United 2 – 0 Everton. Manchester United strengthened their grip on a top-four place and kept Everton deep in relegation trouble with a one-sided victory at Old Trafford.
Scott McTominay’s well-taken first-half effort and Anthony Martial’s first Premier League goal since December were enough to give United victory.
However, it should have been more for Erik ten Hag’s men, with Jordan Pickford making a string of fine saves and Aaron Wan-Bissaka somehow failing to finish into an empty net after Antony’s shot had bounced straight back to him off a post.
There was also late concern for the hosts when Marcus Rashford was forced to leave the field and was pictured walking very gingerly up the tunnel to the home dressing room.
That is not what Ten Hag needs before Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final with Sevilla, although Martial’s return, along with that of Christian Eriksen after two-and-a-half months out with an ankle injury, were welcome as Brazilian midfielder Casemiro completes his four-match domestic suspension.
As for Everton, they are in the unsatisfactory position of having to see how others do before knowing what the full damage caused by this defeat will be.
It has been 10 games now since Sean Dyche replaced Frank Lampard in the Goodison Park hot-seat.
That period has yielded 12 points and should Everton continue with that average over the final eight games, they should survive – although it would condemn their supporters to a repeat of the nervy end to the season from 12 month ago.
Evidently, their four remaining games against fellow sides in the relegation scrap will be key and all could yet hinge on the final game of the season at home to Bournemouth.
But to even get that far, goalkeeper Pickford will have to stay fit.
In the first half of this contest, he alone stood between Everton and a hammering that could have been very damaging to their goal difference.
There was one save with his trailing leg to deny England colleague Rashford which Pickford knew nothing about. But apart from that, it was a combination of good positioning, agility and alertness that denied the hosts.
Any criticism of his failure to keep out United’s opener was picky in the extreme. The home side smoothly moved the ball across the field from their left and once the Everton defence failed to clear as the ball bobbled around Rashford on the edge of the area, they were on the back foot as Jadon Sancho fed a superb pass to McTominay, who finished first time from close range.
And there was little Pickford could do to prevent United’s second either as Rashford squared to an unmarked Martial, who, within 10 minutes of his introduction, had scored more Premier League goals in this game than Wout Weghorst has managed in his entire loan spell at United, emphasising why Ten Hag is so keen to have the Frenchman fit.
It is unfortunate for Wan-Bissaka that his performance will be remembered for his terrible miss because much of what he did was excellent.
The 25-year-old has not found it easy since his £50m move from Crystal Palace in 2019, nor has it been forgotten United said they assessed the relative merits of 804 right-backs before identifying the Londoner as their preferred choice.
As recently as the World Cup break, it had appeared Wan-Bissaka had a limited future at Old Trafford and the likelihood is the club would have sold him for the right offer.
But from the restart Wan-Bissaka has looked like a different player.
The mere fact he was in the penalty area to miss his chance suggested an attacking responsibility he has not routinely been given.
The fact he has never scored a professional goal in front of supporters may go some way to explaining his failure in front of a packed and expectant Stretford End.
While not entirely comfortable in possession at times, he does seem more comfortable in taking the ball and rotating it and he is being trusted with the right-back, midfield pivot combination Pep Guardiola has decided Kyle Walker is unable to carry out at Manchester City.
source – BBC