Match report: United 4 Everton 0
Manchester United's returning first-team players put Everton to the sword, winning 4-0 at Old Trafford in our final pre-season friendly before the campaign begins.
Five of the Reds' starting line-up were involved in their first match after the summer's European Championship and two, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes, scored brilliant first-half goals to put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men in the driving seat after Mason Greenwood's opener.
Bruno's strike, his first in front of the home fans since February 2020, was particularly special, as he whipped an unstoppable free-kick beyond Jordan Pickford.
United could have gone into the break four or five goals to the good and were rampant before a baying Theatre of Dreams faithful.
If the first half was all about treating the 55,000-strong crowd, the second centred around getting minutes in the tank, with Paul Pogba, Fred and Scott McTominay all afforded time on the pitch after their international involvement.
There was still chance for celebration though, when Diogo Dalot stooped to nod in Fred's low cross in stoppage time.
FIRST HALF – REDS IN THE MOOD
Old Trafford’s biggest attendance since March 2020 gave the early stages of the game a Premier League-like feel as, roared on by both sets of supporters, the two sides instantly found their groove.
The Toffees could have taken the lead within the opening 70 seconds, but Ben Godfrey, sliding in at the far post, failed to connect with Andros Townsend’s corner. If Godfrey was a little late to react and sniff out the opportunity, the same could not be said of Greenwood, who was fully alert to capitalise on a mix-up between Lucas Digne and Pickford.
The full-back’s header was perhaps a little firm, but the onrushing goalkeeper surprisingly let the ball slip from his grasp, allowing United’s no.11 to simply prod the ball into the empty net with his right foot.
It was a tough return to action for one of England’s heroes of the summer and it got even worse when two of his Three Lions team-mates combined to double our lead on 15 minutes.
Luke Shaw’s cross found Maguire’s head with laser accuracy and the Reds captain steered an unstoppable header into Pickford’s top-left corner. What a start!
Fernandes has had few opportunities to dazzle in front of United’s fans and he was obviously relishing the attention and adulation being doled out to him, testing Pickford with a skidding shot before narrowly curling over from a similar position to his Goal of the Season scored against the same opponent in February.
Strikes netted in pre-season do not count towards the award, but if they did he would be in with a chance of a second prize in a row.
Nemanja Matic was fouled on the edge of the area and, from the free-kick, our no.18 stepped up and curled a delightful effort beyond the outstretched hand of Pickford – 3-0 with only half an hour gone.
This was only Everton’s third friendly of the summer and Rafael Benitez’s side looked visibly shaken by the early onslaught. They still had their opportunities in the first half though, with Alex Iwobi firing into the Stretford End and Godfrey off target just before the break with a header.
SECOND HALF – VALUABLE MINUTES
The available-again Pogba and Fred joined Juan Mata in entering the fray after the interval, but all eyes were still on Bruno and he sent a fizzing drive just wide of the post of Asmir Begovic – Pickford’s replacement – almost immediately after the restart.
These types of games can often take a dip in tempo as the substitutes bed themselves into the game and that was the case here, with Everton also making several changes – new signing Andros Townsend rattled the crossbar from Digne’s cutback in the only other noteworthy incident prior to the hour mark.
The vociferous Toffees support stuck with their team and almost got their reward on 63 minutes when, after another raft of replacements, Demarai Gray slid across goal but could not quite get a toe to Townsend’s cross.
With a mix of players at various stages of their pre-season preparations, the game became more and more stretched with Begovic saving from Greenwood and Diogo Dalot denying Anthony Gordon at the other end within the space of 30 seconds.
After the introduction of McTominay and James Garner, Greenwood was the last of United’s outfield starters on the pitch and he almost turned creator for Garner, only for the Academy midfielder to lift the ball over Begovic’s bar.
Bruno's stunning free-kick against the Toffees
MUTV viewers were treated to something special by Bruno Fernandes, as he unleashed this stunning free-kick...
The Toffees finished stronger and had a late shout for a penalty when Tom Davies was upended by Axel Tuanzebe, but referee Martin Atkinson waved the protests away, while Yerry Mina had to use every inch of his imposing frame to block Greenwood's shot.
Mina and his team-mates could do nothing when Dalot escaped his marker to loop a header over Begovic with the last kick of the game, though.
So United end our 2021 pre-season with a record of two wins, a draw and a defeat from four games.
There have been plenty of on-pitch moments to savour for fans watching in the ground and at home on MUTV and the coaching staff will have learned plenty.
The real work begins here next Saturday, when arch-rivals Leeds United come to town, though.
United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka (Dalot 60), Lindelof (Tuanzebe 60), Maguire (c, Garner 69), Shaw (Williams 60); Matic (Fred HT), van de Beek (Pogba HT); Greenwood, Fernandes (Andreas 60), James (McTominay 69); Martial (Mata HT).
Subs not used: Grant, Heaton.
Goals: Greenwood 8, Maguire 15, Fernandes 29, Dalot 90+2
Everton: Pickford (Begovic HT); Coleman (c, Kenny 60), Keane (Holgate 77), Godfrey (Mina 77), Digne; Allan (Davies 60), Doucoure (Delph HT); Iwobi, Rodriguez (Gordon HT), Townsend (Broadhead 68); Gray (Dobbin 78).
Subs not used: Tyrer, Nkounkou.