New-look attack gets Red Devils firing again
Everton 0 Manchester Utd 2
New year, new start, new resolution - maybe - for Manchester United, with manager Jose Mourinho given a reminder of what he has available to him in this convincing win over Everton that ended their win-less run at four matches.
Goals from Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard - two terrific strikes - showed that United maybe have more attacking power at their disposal than Mourinho has acknowledged.
In the absence of the injured pair Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic - and with Mourinho claiming he did not have a centre-forward - United did it a different way with an impressive second-half performance.
For Everton, this was a sobering loss, back-to-back defeats, and not least for their captain, and United's former captain, Wayne Rooney whose final act before being substituted was to weakly lose possession close to the United penalty area that eventually led to Martial's goal.
The France international was playing as the central striker with Mourinho confirming pre-match that Lukaku would be out for a week as a precaution after the head injury he sustained in the tepid goalless draw with Southampton.
In the first half it poured, but it did not rain chances. Instead in the slippery, dank conditions it opened as a contest of misplaced, mistimed passes.
It was high on commitment but low on quality. Chances were at a premium with Everton pushing early on, earning a series of corners but coming closest when only a last-ditch tackle by Marcos Rojo prevented Oumar Niasse from breaking through inside the area.
They played everything through Rooney, maybe overly dependent on him, and he was caught out when dispossessed by Ander Herrera, whose shot flew over the crossbar.
Rooney then became the first player to be cautioned, desperately bringing down Martial as he ran towards the Everton penalty area.
Soon after Martial combined with Luke Shaw down the left only for goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to push out his cut-back.
United racked up half-chances with Paul Pogba, captaining the side, forcing Pickford to scramble across goal as his deflected shot skidded narrowly wide, Rooney blocking from Herrera and then Lingard dragging the ball along the face of the area after a promising run.
Everton had made wholesale changes - seven in all with manager Sam Allardyce feeling compelled to act after suffering his first defeat in charge of the club away to Bournemouth.
It lacked spark. It lacked adventure but that changed after half-time with Juan Mata working the ball across the area, exchanging passes and striking a left-foot shot from around 25 yards that drifted away from Pickford and rebounding off the far post and away.
United were in control, with Pogba going close as he played a one-two with Lingard and was allowed to run in from the corner of the area with his shot clearing the post.
United took their next chance. It came as they countered quickly, collecting Rooney's wayward pass.
Suddenly, Pogba was running down the left and he pulled the ball back to Martial, who had time and space to superbly curl a right-footed effort beyond Pickford and into the net.
United pressed on and, after Pickford pushed Pogba's shot over the crossbar, Allardyce made a double change, with his side being over-run.
Everton's lack of energy was again exposed as Martial sprinted into the area and crossed the ball, but Pogba was unable to gain enough contact to head it home.
With James McCarthy making a difference, Everton finally roused a response.
Mason Holgate crossed the ball from the right, but Niasse spurned a great chance, heading it wide from close-range, before Tom Davies had a shot charged down after more good work from Holgate.
The noise around Goodison picked up and the home crowd called for more but they could not quieten Pogba, who resumed control and then registered his second assist of the afternoon.
The increasingly lively Lingard was the recipient, taking a pass from his former academy team-mate on the left, cutting inside leaving and leaving Michael Keane in his wake, before rifling yet another spectacular, long-range strike past a helpless Pickford.
It was a wonderful strike - Lingard's seventh goal in nine matches - and it ended the contest.
As he and the rest of the United players ran towards the Bullens Road end to celebrate with their supporters, Pogba ran in the opposite direction, his arms spread wide, basking in both his team's certain victory and his own game-changing performance. (© Daily Telegraph, London)