In events leading up to the clash between Manchester United and Everton, Tim Howard had challenged De Gea to take advantage of United’s leaky defence and improve his leadership skills. The best leaders are the ones who raise their game at crucial moments in tight encounters and De Gea gave another glimpse of his rising stature in the world of football.
Manchester United managed a narrow victory over the Merseyside Blues with Angel Di Maria scoring a goal and setting up the winner for Radamel Falcao. Steven Naismith had scored shortly after the break to level the game at 1-1 but Falcao scored his first goal for United to give them their first back to back wins in the current campaign.
The man of the match was De Gea for his match winning performance. Right at the end of the first half he saved a Leighton Baines penalty by diving down to his right. In the 91st minute of the match he again clawed out a Leon Osman shot which was heading to the far post. That was not the end of his heroics, in the 94th minute he tipped over a Bryan Oviedo shot destined for the back of the net.
In team news, Paddy McNair had kept his place in the first eleven denying Blackett a position after his return from suspension. Wayne Rooney started the first of his three matches as part of the ban and Robin van Persie was selected to captain the side in his absence.
Everton returned from a mid week clash in Russia and started with Romelu Lukaku upfront in place of Samuel Eto’o. Tony Hibbert was playing in place of injured Seamus Coleman and Steven Pienaar made a return from a thigh injury.
The home team started brightly and they swarmed Everton in the wider areas of the field. In the 4th minute Luke Shaw delivered a cross that was met by Falcao and swiftly saved by Howard. In the 7th minute Angel Di Maria again exposed the same flank and crossed in a ball that was scooped over by Van Persie. In the 19th minute Falcao shot wide after a delightful back heel from the Argentine midfielder.
Everton’s flanks were regularly exposed but the Red Devils could not find the finishing touch till the 27th minute as a Rafael cross was not dealt with properly and it came to Mata in the box who laid it off for Di Maria to finish beyond Howard at the far post.
It seemed like a comfortable first half for the home side where Everton were just not pressing the home side enough. Blind had all the time to control the play and McNair, the teenage defender had dominated the battle against Romelu Lukaku. There was one time when Lukaku had managed to get past the teenager from a Leighton Baines long ball but to the Belgian’s disappointment he shot high and wide.
In the injury time of the first half, Manchester United’s defensive frailties were again at display. A combination of clever back heel from Pienaar and lack of awareness from Luke Shaw allowed Hibbert to run free into the penalty box. Luke Shaw lunged into a challenge to prevent the right back’s run and in turn conceded a penalty.
Leighton Baines who had previously scored 14 penalties with a 100% penalty record in the Premier League stepped up and saw his tame effort saved by the goalkeeper. It was a crucial moment in the match and the home side went into the break with a 1-0 advantage.
As the teams emerged from the tunnel for the second half, Roberto Martinez seemed to have made the necessary alterations to his team strategy. Steven Naismith was playing further forward and marking Daley Blind who had an easy time in the first half with lots of time and space on the ball to create play. Everton and Naismith were instantly rewarded after a cleverly taken set piece which involved a one-two between Baines and Barry allowed him to head in the equaliser from the defender’s cross.
Everton seemed to have found the impetus after the equaliser as Jagielka saw his header cleared off the line by Falcao. On the other end Falcao did what he does best, he took advantage of a Di Maria shot that had been dragged off the mark and finished it high into the American keeper’s net.
A series of substitutions saw Fellaini return to the side and was booed by the away fans as he had left Everton in 2013 to join Old Trafford. As the match went on Manchester United started defending deeper into their own half and would have paid for it if it had not been for David De Gea’s heroics. Leon Osman who had come on for Steven Pienaar as a second half substitute saw his effort saved by the keeper.
A later flurry of chances deep into the injury time saw Barry’s shot blocked by Tyler Blackett and Oviedo’s shot tipped over the bar by De Gea which resulted in an Everton corner. From the Baines corner Lukaku headed over and sunk to the floor knowing that it was the last opportunity that his side had to equalise.
Everton are without a win in their last 5 matches in all competitions and have sunk to 17th place while on the other hand Manchester United are rising after a dull start to the campaign. If results go their way they will see themselves as high as the 4th position which would be a pleasing sign for Van Gaal and his men. Everton are visibly suffering from their strenuous schedule and would be looking forward to the international break after which they can start afresh.