Opinion: Aggressive Reds respond to critics

Sunday 08 November 2020 10:00

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's wait for a Premier League home win this season might be ongoing but, away, there are few better than his Manchester United side.

After two defeats in six days, to Arsenal and Istanbul Basaksehir, the Reds needed a response, and they got one at Everton with a gritty 3-1 win that sends us into the international break with pride restored.

But what's more, it was full of the right stuff: aggression, competitiveness, bite and graft.

Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani will take the headlines, and rightly so: Fernandes's creative instincts were vital in plotting a path back into the game after Bernard's early goal for Everton, and Cavani's first for the club is a moment to be celebrated.

But when Ole went to bed on Saturday night, surely what will have most pleased him is the industry and determination shown by so many of his players.

As the final whistle sounded, Scott McTominay let out a wild "Get in there!", clearly delighted with the important win, and it was his and Fred's tireless work-rate in midfield that set the platform for this win.

90 in 20: Everton 1 United 3 Video

90 in 20: Everton 1 United 3

What could be better than highlights of our quality win over Everton? Extended highlights...

Early on, Fred could be seen imploring Harry Maguire to get the ball forward, and into United's dangerous front four more often, and quicker, so they'd have space on the half-turn and could get at Everton's back line and unsettle them.

It was via that method that United's second goal arrived. Fred fizzed a superb, surgically-guided ball into Marcus Rashford – in a central position around 20 yards from goal – and from there the Wythenshawe-reared forward found Bruno on the left. His floated cross ended up in the back of the net, but it was Fred's forward-thinking that had found the crack in the Everton set-up which could then be exploited.

McTominay was just as good. A vocal, snarling presence while sweeping up in front of the defence, the Scottish international didn't need to be asked twice to make a thunderous challenge or two – just ask Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who was on the receiving end of one particularly meaty effort.

His passing was excellent too. On several occasions he clipped crisp long balls out to the opposite flank, giving United both an outlet and ensuring the ball found Rashford or Luke Shaw early, when they had space to work with.

In the second half, as pressure mounted, it was the back four that stepped to the fore. Axel Tuanzebe barely put a foot wrong after coming on as a substitute in the unfamiliar left-back role, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka delivered his usual set of perfectly timed tackles.

But it was Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire who really stood up to be counted. As he did last season, the skipper made vital headed clearances and dealt well with the physical and aerial threat posed by Calvert-Lewin, who has started the season as a handful for all but the very best defenders.

Lindelof missed the game in midweek, and has been ailed by a back problem, but he stepped back into the starting XI alongside his long-term partner, Maguire, and added a composure and calm that was much missed during the defeat to Istanbul Basaksehir.

When United play well, it's always the forwards who flourish, and understandably. They do the damage at the business end of the field, where it's hardest to prosper. And in Bruno, Rashford, Martial et al, few have more firepower available than Solskjaer.

But all teams need balance to win, and the Reds had it in abundance on Saturday thanks to some of their most unsung heroes.

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Maguire, Lindelof, Fred, McTominay hopefully congratulated themselves on a job well done when they made their way home from Goodison Park.

If they prefer not to pat themselves on the back, their manager and team-mates - and United's many fans – will surely happily do it for them.

The opinions expressed in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United.