Despite a late scare, Manchester United hung on to beat Everton thanks to a wonderful strike from the in-form Anthony Martial.
In a showing that was arguably their best of the season, Manchester United were well worth their win over Everton at Old Trafford. After a relatively even set of opening salvos, Anthony Martial drove towards the penalty area, and got Idrissa Gana Gueye to give up a penalty, with what Everton’s manager Marco Silva called a dive. Paul Pogba stepped up, and proceeded to take an eternity to tiptoe forward to the ball. Jordan Pickford saved the penalty, but was powerless to prevent the Frenchman from stroking home the rebound.
In the second half, the irresistible Martial curled home a beautiful second to put United in control, but Everton hit back through a Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty, coming from some poor play from Pogba, and a ludicrously bad challenge from Chris Smalling. Both sides had chances to add to the scoreline, particularly through Rashford, Lukaku, Martial and most notably Bernard, but United hung on for a morale-boosting win.
Here are five things we learned from the game.
Martial taking his chance
When Alexis Sanchez swapped Arsenal for United, it meant that Anthony Martial was placed on the backburner, but, slowly, Martial has clawed back his starting spot. In spite of Alexis’ status as the highest earning player on the team, as well as Martial’s reported fallout with Mourinho over the summer, Martial is taking his chance.
With four goals in his last three Premier League games, Martial is becoming a driving force behind United’s attacks. His finish was sublime, curling the ball around Seamus Coleman and past a stunned Pickford.
He is a unique threat from the left, and if he keeps this form up, Sanchez will rightfully get nowhere near the United starting lineup.
Lack of ruthlessness from United
For all of Martial’s scoring prowess, he did miss a simple one-on-one with Pickford that would have sealed the game. Additionally, Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku should have scored as well.
United are not great defensively, as evidenced by the fact that they only have one clean sheet in the league this season. They will need their strikers to bail them out more often than not this season, and their low conversion rate is concerning. Lukaku and Rashford have now combined for just one goal over the last nine games, and United need them to rediscover their form soon.
Pickford continues his excellent form
One man that kept the score respectable for Everton was England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. The former Sunderland stopper made several good saves, particularly to deny Rashford and Martial in the second half, but the highlight of his game was his second penalty save in as many games. Following on from his World Cup heroics, Pickford is making a name for himself as a penalty specialist.
Additionally, his distribution was also impressive, helping launch counter-attacks up the wings. His stock is rising, and Everton will benefit from his growing confidence.
Victor Lindelof improving
One man that has quietly improved this season is Swedish centre-back Victor Lindelof. Following on from creditable performances against Juventus and Chelsea, the former Benfica defender put in another good performance against Everton.
Richarlison was largely kept in check, and when United’s defence did mess up, it was Chris Smalling who was blindly sliding in for an unnecessary challenge in the area, not Lindelof. It is a low bar to set and it is also early days, but Lindelof appears to be slowly turning into the calm defender United thought they had signed from in 2017.
Everton pay the price for wastefulness
This game could have been so different if Bernard had managed to squeeze his shot into what was essentially an open net. Having done exceptionally well to round and ground David de Gea, and with Victor Lindelof desperately trying to get back to cover, the Brazilian should have put the ball in the back of the net, or squared it to the waiting Theo Walcott – but could only find the side-netting.
This kind of gilt-edged chance is one that has to be taken and would have cut United’s lead in half just five minutes after the break. If the Blues would have taken that chance, there’s every possibility that they would have gone on to get something out of the game. Silva can complain about the validity of United’s penalty, but in the end, his team did not take their chance when it presented itself.