Premier League 2018/19: Reviewing Manchester United's performance against Everton at Old Trafford
At the 200th meeting between the Reds and the Toffees, the former went into the game looking to get out of their team's worst phase during the initial part of the season in many years, while the latter looked to extend their winning streak to a solid four in the Premier League.
Jose Mourinho decided to dispense with their Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku, after going eight games without a goal for the Red Devils in company with an overall lack of contribution to the side, and as he started from the bench. It was the new Brazilian signing Fred who got a chance to showcase his faculties. Marcus Rashford was positioned to play in Lukaku's place for the game.
The home side had to up their game from the first half this time, unlike their previous few matches, and they rightly did so, with Fred adding a lot of dynamism to the outfit equally from both wings. Manchester United cleared seemed to have the right tempo required from the start.
The game was fairly poised in the first 20 minutes or so, with Manchester United in slightly better shape. It was in the 22nd minute, when Martial set free from his marker with his typical run on his right foot, and struck a beautiful shot at the near post, only to be handled out by Everton goalie Jordan Pickford. Everyone knew that sooner or later, there was a goal coming United's way.
It was in the 25th minute when Martial's beautiful run in the Everton eighteen yard box was brought to a halt by their right back Idrissa Gana which, to Everton's surprise, was declared a penalty.
The highlights did show a slight bit of contact on the ball, but with forwards these days playing for such moments inside the box, Martial always had the benefit of doubt in this decision.
Paul Pogba stepped up to take the penalty, and the penalty was beautifully saved by Pickford, but to his misfortune, landed up right in front of the World Cup winner again, who tapped it in safely this time.
What followed after this Manchester United goal was a spirited performance from the Old Trafford side to see through the remainder of the first half, with great link-up play between Pogba and Mata, along with some searing runs from the United wingers.
United, having just slightly shaded the first half, still seemed to lack the overall quality that their players truly possessed.
In the 272 games at Old Trafford where Manchester United have led in the first half, they have never lost a game, having drawn 16 and winning the remaining 256, and the intent was made extremely clear when a ball from the right flank was played down to Pogba in the middle, who softly laid it for Martial on his beloved right foot, who curled in an absolute beauty at the Stretford End.
Manchester United were in total control of the game after a wonderful second goal was scored, with Paul Pogba and Juan Mata switching up to their A games, and bossing around in midfield, dictating the play.
Gradually, the attackers decided to drop back a bit to help defensively, with Martial often intercepting play deep on the left flank. Anthony Martial had a brilliant attacking first half and an equally impressive second half where he showcased an excellent defensive work rate.
There were a couple of slip-ups in the back though, specifically by Martial and Shaw, where the Englishman was tucked in while the winger was unable to track back for his defensive duties, but all was taken care of by their solid center back Victor Lindelof, who had an astounding game.
With time ticking away, the two-goal deficit started to affect the performances of the Merseyside players, with the Brazilian Bernard missing a gaping United net, after dodging past De Gea.
It was a moment of error by Paul Pogba, trying to play a fancy flick to Fred, when it was intercepted by Everton who went on the attack and forced Chris Smalling to make a very blatant challenge on Richarlison, which gifted them a penalty. Gylfi Sigurdsson converted with a clean and clinical strike, bringing his side back in the game with the last quarter still to play.
United made sure they saw through the last quarter of the game without getting into a lot of trouble by shifting their game to a rather defensive approach. They made the right changes to make sure that their cause was served.
A volley by Everton striker Lookman in the last minute of the stoppage time sailed high into the stands, and so did their chances of salvaging a point in the game as the full-time whistle went off at Old Trafford.
Not the most convincing of performances by the Reds, but the Gaffer would cherish any game during this phase where they can pick up all three points, and look to build on their performances for the many more games to come.