From Old Trafford – Manchester United’s push for a top-four finish continued on Saturday with a comfortable 2-0 win over relegation strugglers Everton.
A goal in each half from Scott McTominay and Anthony Martial helped United maintain their unbeaten home record in 2023, though the match could have been over as a contest if not for the brilliance of Jordan Pickford in the Everton goal.
United started well and should have gone ahead early on when Marcus Rashford broke clear thanks to a mistake from Michael Keane. He shrugged off James Tarkowski and burst into the box but Pickford was equal to his effort.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka delivered a contender for miss of the season shortly after. Antony controlled a corner on the edge of the box before firing against Pickford’s post. The rebound fell to Wan-Bissaka but his tame left-footed effort dribbled wide.
Everton were still in the contest, however, and might have gone ahead through Ellis Simms. He played a one-two with Seamus Coleman and had all the time in the world to at least test David de Gea, but he pulled it wide.
Another huge chance for United then came with a long ball over the top from Bruno Fernandes which found Antony’s run, but the Brazilian could not beat Pickford when clean through on goal.
Demarai Gray, who was a real thorn in the side for United’s defence, looked for a penalty under a challenge from Harry Maguire but saw his appeal waved away and the decision confirmed by VAR.
United were then offered two more chances before the half-hour courtesy of long-balls over the top. De Gea first sent Antony through again but this time Ben Godfrey made the late challenge as the Brazilian hesitated. Rashford then collected a ball from Fernandes but Pickford was off his line quickly to deny him with his legs.
The deadlock was finally broken ten minutes before the break. McTominay exchanged passes with Jadon Sancho in a packed Everton defence and fired past Pickford at the near post.
Just before the break, United again could and should have scored. Antony breezed past Godfrey but again his strike was beaten away by the impressive Pickford.
Half-time saw Godfrey taken off as clearly Sean Dyche was growing tired of seeing Antony have chance after chance and replacement Vitalii Mykolenko did improve things on that front.
The second-half bore no relation to the first, with chances few and far between. Dyche made a double change on the hour with James Garner and Tom Davies coming on to try to create a spark in the Toffees midfield.
But the first real chance of the second half came to Fernandes as his run into the box was picked out brilliantly by Marcel Sabitzer, but Pickford was equal to it once again.
Pickford was beaten for the second time on 71 minutes. A long ball over the top was not dealt with by Everton skipper Seamus Coleman and Rashford pounced on the mistake, crossing for Martial to finish from close-range.
The win lifts Man Utd back above Newcastle into third, though they could drop into fourth should the Magpies win at Brentford. Everton are 16th and could be in the relegation zone by the end of the day.
GK: David De Gea – 6/10 – Comfortable but wasn’t asked to do much.
RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 6/10 – Solid enough in defence, didn’t offer too much going forward and produced one of the misses of the season.
CB: Harry Maguire (C) – 6/10 – Did nothing wrong but again was not tested too much.
CB: Lisandro Martinez – 7/10 – No mistakes. Did allow Simms too much from for one of Everton’s only real chances, but he barely broke a sweat as he commanded the United back-line.
LB: Tyrell Malacia – 5/10 – Struggled at times to cope with Iwobi and Gray.
CM: Scott McTominay – 7/10 – Solid and competed well against Onana and Gueye – crucial goal to break the deadlock.
CM: Bruno Fernandes – 8/10 – Enjoyed his deeper role, saw more of the ball and drove the team forward – excellent.
RW: Antony – 6/10 – Could have had a hat-trick in the first half alone – his misses could have proved costly.
AM: Marcel Sabitzer – 7/10 – Played in an advanced role, had a couple of decent chances and worked his socks off.
LW: Jadon Sancho – 7/10 – Looked bright on the counter attack and brilliant ball for McTominay to open the scoring.
CF: Marcus Rashford – 7/10 – Bright and had numerous chances, found Pickford in good form but should have scored, although he did well to create winner for Martial.
Anthony Martial (60′ for Antony) – 6/10 – One chance and scored.
Christian Eriksen (77′ for Sancho) – N/A
Fred (77′ for Sabitzer) – N/A
Wout Weghorst (80′ for Rashford) – N/A
Erik ten Hag – 7/10 – Playing Fernandes in deeper role with Sabitzer in the CAM role worked well.
GK: Jordan Pickford – 9/10 – Outstanding from Pickford as numerous saves kept Everton in the game.
RB: Seamus Coleman (C) – 3/10 – Struggled at times with the pace of Rashford and Sancho and then made a bad error for Martial’s goal.
CB: Michael Keane – 4/10 – At least one missed header in the first-half – fortunate, more than anything else, that United didn’t score more.
CB: James Tarkowski – 4/10 – Caught out by pace and movement all too often.
LB: Ben Godfrey – 3/10 – Looked OK going forward but caught out over and over again by long balls to Antony over his head. Taken off at half-time.
RM: Alex Iwobi – 5/10 – Worked hard but didn’t see enough of the ball and game generally passed him by.
CM: Idrissa Gueye – 6/10 – Sat in midfield and tried break up play when he needed to.
CM: Amadou Onana – 7/10 – Was all over the pitch, did everything he could. Like Pickford and Gray, he can’t take much responsibility for the loss.
LM: Dwight McNeil – 3/10 – Did very little, saw little of the ball and, when he did, did little with it.
CF: Demarai Gray – 7/10 – Started the game really well and never gave up – a constant menace.
CF: Ellis Simms – 4/10 – Was always going to have limited chances at Old Trafford but he had a great opportunity to score in the first half and woefully put it wide.
Vitalii Mykolenko (45′ for Godfrey) – 5/10 – Did OK and shored up the left side of Everton’s defence.
James Garner (60′ for Onana) – N/A
Tom Davies (60′ for Gueye) – N/A
Neal Maupay (70′ for Simms) – N/A
Nathan Paterson (87′ for Coleman) – N/A
Sean Dyche – 6/10 – Should have lost by more but the defence was far too open and flat-footed, but he did make right change at the break.
Player of the match – Jordan Pickford (Everton)