Saturday 24 September 2016

Martial winner sinks Everton as Manchester United remain in top-four hunt

Published 03/04/2016 | 18:21

Anthony Martial secured Manchester United victory against Everton
Anthony Martial secured Manchester United victory against Everton

Anthony Martial's close-range strike kept Manchester United's Champions League chase on track and prevented Everton from overshadowing the tributes to Sir Bobby Charlton.

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Few are more synonymous with the Red Devils' style and success than the World Cup winner, who has lived through triumph and tragedy, going from Busby Babe to board member during his 60-year association with the club.

Charlton's impact saw Old Trafford's South Stand renamed in his honour during a heartfelt pre-match tribute, a spine-tingling celebration that Martial ensured would not be followed by frustration as United ran out 1-0 winners against Everton.

It had looked set to be an anti-climactic afternoon after a 10th goalless first half in 15 Premier League matches at Old Trafford, only for Martial to lift the mood by scoring with United's first shot on target.

United's 1,000th Premier League goal at Old Trafford was far from a classic, but it had Charlton celebrating in the stand now carrying his name and moved Louis van Gaal's men up to fifth, back within a point of Manchester City in the final Champions League spot.

The 1-0 win at their rivals before the international break breathed new life into the Red Devils' top-four hopes and Van Gaal, unsurprisingly, kept with the same side that won at Etihad Stadium.

Everton, looking to avoid a third straight league defeat, made two changes at Old Trafford and the recalled Gerard Deulofeu quickly looked to repay Roberto Martinez's faith, with a jinking run into the area coming in-between several threatening crosses.

The visitors were looking more confident in possession and only intelligent defending from Daley Blind prevented a Romelu Lukaku backheel putting Aaron Lennon through.

The Belgium striker has been linked with a summer move to Old Trafford and proved a nuisance for the home side, nodding wide before chasing down a ball that David de Gea just beat him to.

Everton's defence were not having to deal with the same threat, but John Stones, the visitors' other change, showed impressive timing to prevent Martial getting a shot away after collecting Marcus Rashford's deft flick.

Neither side were able to muster a shot on target during a drab first half and only a last-ditch Blind intervention prevented Lukaku changing that in the 49th minute, having turned and shot from close range.

United academy graduate Tom Cleverley was next to threaten before United belatedly got their first shot on Joel Robles' goal.

It was an opportunity they made count as fine play from Juan Mata and Rashford put through half-time introduction Tim Fosu-Mensah, whose low cross took a slight nick before Martial turned it home.

Phil Jagielka's powerful header shortly after rattled the crossbar and the home support, but United were now more of an attacking threat, with Jesse Lingard just unable to get a telling touch on a Juan Mata cross.

Martinez's side were struggling to breakdown Van Gaal's men and were attacking with less regularity, although they had a few chances after Blind's injury forced a defensive reshuffle.

Jagielka's snapshot after the ball went loose at a corner was saved by De Gea and the stretching Fosu-Mensah cleared a dangerous Seamus Coleman effort as United held firm against the side they hope to soon meet at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-finals.

TWEET OF THE MATCH

"Would love to see a shot at goal here in this game! @manutd vs Everton" - Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) bemoans a slow start to the match.

RATINGS

MANCHESTER UNITED

David de Gea 7 (out of 10)

Matteo Darmian 6

Chris Smalling 7

Daley Blind 8

Marcos Rojo 4

Michael Carrick 5

Morgan Schneiderlin 6

Jesse Lingard 6

Juan Mata 6

Anthony Martial 7

Marcus Rashford 6

Subs:

Tim Fosu-Mensah (for Rojo, 46) 7

Ander Herrera (for Carrick, 58) 6

Antonio Valencia (for Blind, 82) 6

EVERTON

Joel Robles 6

Seamus Coleman 6

John Stones 7

Phil Jagielka 6

Leighton Baines 6

James McCarthy 6

Tom Cleverley 6

Gerard Deulofeu 7

Ross Barkley 6

Aaron Lennon 6

Romelu Lukaku 7

Subs:

Kevin Mirallas (for Deulofeu, 63) 6

Oumar Niasse (for Barkley, 87) 5

STAR MAN

Daley Blind - It takes a lot to deal with Romelu Lukaku's mixture of skill, strength and directness, but the Holland international managed it. Blind sometimes looks shaky at the heart of defence but performed manfully against Everton, with his absence telling when forced off.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

The recognition of Sir Bobby Charlton's six-decade association with United was touching and deserved. A standing ovation and fan mosaic welcomed the World Cup winner onto the Old Trafford turf, where he saw the unveiling of the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand.

VIEW FROM THE BENCH

Louis van Gaal's decision to stick with the side that won at Manchester City paid dividends. The first half was uninspiring but solid, with momentum building after the break. Roberto Martinez will have been pleased with the displays of John Stones and Gerard Deulofeu after bringing them into Everton's line-up.

MOAN OF THE MATCH

The amazing atmosphere before the match quickly dissipated when the match got under way. Old Trafford can be a special place but was quiet after Charlton was recognised.

NEXT UP

Tottenham v Manchester United, Barclays Premier League, (Sunday April 10)

Watford v Everton, Barclays Premier League, (Saturday April 9)

Juan Mata said on Sky Sports: "We wanted to win but we wanted to win in our way of playing, just trying to play the ball and create chances, and I think in the second half we did this very well. After scoring the first goal it was easier as they opened up. It was a very important win."

Chris Smalling said Louis van Gaal told his players at half-time they needed to control the game to get the result.

"The first half we controlled it, but the second half we know there is so much to play for and it did get a bit scrappy," he said.

"It was just a case of playing forward when we got the ball but staying patient, not being too direct, and trying to control the game."

However, Everton boss Roberto Martinez was left frustrated by the result.

"There were two games within a game," he told BBC Sport. "Up until the goal, we were the team with a better tempo and we always looked a threat.

"The goal was a very soft action, it's not up to our standards. The performances were very, very level and we shouldn't have lost the game.

"It's that sort of game that came down to small margins - the ball hitting the crossbar is the difference between us getting something out of the game.

"We are a young group with great potential, but our home form hasn't been anywhere near good enough."

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