Tuesday 24 April 2018

Rooney helps clinical United banish Blues and end long Goodison hoodoo

Everton 0-3 Manchester United

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal celebrates with goal hero Wayne Rooney after their win over Everton at Goodison Park Photo: Peter Byrne
Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal celebrates with goal hero Wayne Rooney after their win over Everton at Goodison Park Photo: Peter Byrne
Everton's Brendan Galloway in action with Manchester United's Jesse Lingard
Man United's Phil Jones tries to reach the ball
Phil Jones jumps to meet the ball

Paul Wilson

Wayne Rooney scored his first goal at his old Goodison Park stomping ground since 2007 as Manchester United brought an emphatic end to Everton's fine run of success in this fixture.

For the past three seasons, dating back to the defeat which opened Alex Ferguson's last campaign, United have lost here without even scoring a goal.

That a repeat was unlikely was obvious almost from the start. Everton were far from at their best and United took a commanding lead before even a quarter of the game had passed.

Roberto Martinez said in advance that United should not be underestimated just because of their setback at Arsenal and he was right. This was one of their most convincing performances of the season, although it must be said that an uncharacteristically lethargic Everton contributed to their own downfall.

Louis van Gaal's latest rethink on the United forward line involved sticking Anthony Martial out on the left, with Rooney up front and Ander Herrera tucked in behind in the No 10 position. Rooney could not manage to get on the end of an inviting Matteo Darmian cross in the opening minutes but otherwise the system looked solid and United moved the ball around neatly in setting up some early attacks. Herrera came up with the game's first shot on target, helping set up the opening goal when Tim Howard tipped his rising shot away for a corner.

United played it short, and when Juan Mata eventually crossed, Steven Naismith could not clear and Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo helped the ball on to an unmarked Morgan Schneiderlin at the far post. The French midfielder supplied an assured close-range finish, poking a low shot past Howard as the goalkeeper began to move in the wrong direction to register not only his first United goal but the first his team has scored at Goodison since 2011.

If that was careless of Everton the situation worsened four minutes later when an incisive United break cut them wide open. Seamus Coleman was too busy fouling Martial to prevent Rojo galloping into space on the left wing, and when his measured cross came in there was no Everton defender within hailing distance as Herrera beat Howard with a firm header from close to the penalty spot.

To be two goals to the good by the mid-point of the first half was almost an exact reversal of what happened to United at Arsenal last time out, and Van Gaal could take some credit for his team selection. Both Rojo and Herrera, who were returning to the team after sitting out a few matches, brought a freshness and drive United have sometimes missed.

Neither was Martial wasted on the wing, where he provided a useful outlet and kept Everton stretched, while Schneiderlin's influence in midfield suggested it might have been a mistake to leave him out at the Emirates. Not that Everton currently resemble Arsenal. On the evidence of this sluggish, laboured performance they do not even resemble the side that so confidently accounted for Chelsea last month. They created almost nothing, struggled even to retain possession at times, and only managed a serious attempt on goal right at the end of the first half, when David de Gea had to punch away Ross Barkley's shot following a half-cleared corner.

By that stage United could have been three in front, for Martial should have scored when Rooney broke clear and unselfishly squared for his better-placed team-mate, only to see the teenager scuff his attempt at a tap-in and allow John Stones to deflect the shot into the arms of a grounded Howard. Everton brought on Arouna Kone for the ineffective Steven Naismith for the second half and he was quick to show he could be a better foil alongside Romelu Lukaku in attack, though a block by Darmian prevented Barkley getting in a clean shot when the ball broke to him at the far post.

Aaron Lennon began to get more involved too, supplying a chance for Lukaku that De Gea saved with his feet. A Barkley free-kick almost crept through until De Gea managed to reach it at the last moment, though had Everton pulled a goal back at that juncture it would have been controversial, the home side having gained possession by being awarded what was so clearly a United throw it brought Van Gaal to his feet with rage in the technical area.

Just as Everton's bid to snap out of their torpor was gaining momentum, however, it was curtailed by a third United goal that killed the contest. Everton only had themselves to blame. Phil Jagielka passed straight to Schneiderlin on halfway, Schneiderlin found Herrera in space, and with the Everton defence struggling to regain position Rooney stayed onside to receive it and stride into the area to beat Howard.

With that strike Rooney drew level with Andy Cole in the Premier League scoring list, leaving only Alan Shearer out in front. He is more than 70 goals in front though, and on the basis of Rooney's attempts to add a second when he again found himself with only Howard to beat Shearer should not be too worried.


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