David Moyes returned to his former club but endured a hugely frustrating afternoon as his side controlled large swathes of possession but were met by Roberto Martinez's men's direct, clinical approach, which brought first-half goals for Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas.
For all that Martinez's Everton are now renowned for free-flowing football, it was United who dictated possession via quick passing play in the first half, with Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa at the centre of it. However, the home side often bypassed their midfield altogether. They were more clinical and it worked, taking the lead on 28 minutes after Romelu Lukaku's shot was blocked by Phil Jones' outstretched arm, with Baines converting the subsequent spot-kick.
United resumed control of the ball but couldn't penetrate Everton's resolute back line. And once again the home side proved ruthless on the break as a counter-attacking move on 43 minutes ended with Seamus Coleman slipping a pass to Mirallas, played onside by Alex Büttner, and he fired his shot past David De Gea.
In the second half Kagawa had a shot saved by the largely untroubled Tim Howard, but the toiling to create still yielded precious few chances. Antonio Valencia, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck entered the fray in search of goals. Perhaps United's best chance came on 87 minutes, but Rooney was denied from close-range by Howard, while Chris Smalling headed wide in injury-time, summing up a dissatisfying day on Merseyside.