Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard ensured Manchester United made the perfect start to 2018 as the duo netted two quite brilliant second-half goals to seal a 2-0 victory over Everton at Goodison Park.
Jose Mourinho and his players arrived on Merseyside looking to bring to an end a recent sequence of three drawn Premier League games against Leicester City, Burnley and Southampton. And the Reds succeeded in the quest to claim an important three points.
United made three changes from Saturday’s match against Southampton with Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial coming in for Ashley Young (suspended), Romelu Lukaku (injured) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Everton, meanwhile, began the game with three former United players in their line-up, namely Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Keane and skipper Wayne Rooney.
Both teams opened the contest in lively fashion with the play switching constantly from one end of the field to the other. United steadily began to enjoy more of the possession, but in front of goal there was very little to get the pulse racing until the latter stages of the first half when Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba and Lingard all chanced their luck with long-range shots.
The first half concluded with neither side having caused many uneasy moments for goalkeepers David De Gea and Jordan Pickford.
United went straight onto the offensive as the second half got under way which culminated with Juan Mata striking an excellent drive towards the Park End goal which Pickford tipped over. Three minutes later and Mata was again taking the route one approach with another shot from distance that had Pickford beaten, but the struck the outside of the keeper’s right-hand post.
It was certainly a more encouraging spell from United and 12 minutes into the half the Reds got the reward when Pogba found Martial with a lovely pass and the Frenchman wasted no time in taking aim before finding the net with a precise finish.
Everton striker Oumar Niasse should have put the teams on level terms, in the 71st minute, but he headed wide after meeting a cross from Mason Holgate. The home side enjoyed their best spell of the game following United’s goal and for a while the Reds’ defence had to dig deep to repel a wave of Everton attacks.
Then, with nine minutes remaining, United came up with the perfect answer to Everton’s resurgence. Pogba did well to pick out Lingard on the left and the England international steadied United nerves with a driving run and terrific finish into the top corner from the edge of the area.
That excellent strike from Lingard proved to be the clincher and it meant United returned to winning ways and kicked off 2018 in the best possible fashion.
Everton: Pickford, Holgate, Keane, Williams, Martina; Davies, Schneiderlin; Vlasic, Rooney (McCarthy 62), Bolasie (Lennon 62); Niasse (Calvert-Lewin 82)
Subs not used: Robles, Jagielka, Sigurdsson, Kenny
Booked: Rooney, Holgate
United: De Gea; Lindelof, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Mata (Tuanzebe 90+1), Martial (Rashford 77), Lingard (Blind 87).
Subs not used: Smalling, Romero, Mkhitaryan, Darmian
“The boys were fantastic - the attitude, the commitment, the desire, the professionalism, the pride. I thought they were absolutely fantastic and on top of that, they produced not just a professional performance but I think a high-quality performance too.
”I think Everton had a little reaction to the 1-0 for five or 10 minutes where we lost a bit of control but I thought we played very, very well and we found a way to play without our main strikers.
“The boys were fantastic in the way they controlled the game, controlled an amazing stadium with a very strong atmosphere, which supports incredibly well the home team. We managed to calm them and to be in control and, on top of that, the goals were good goals,
”So I think it was a fantastic three points. We had good penetration on the sides, we had good crosses and I thought we played very well.