Ten Hag topples the Toffees at Old Trafford

After getting back to winning ways with a 1-0 win against Brentford in midweek, Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United side took on a resurgent Everton – buoyed from a stoppage-time equaliser in their 1-1 draw with Tottenham on Monday night.

MUN: De Gea; Malacia, Martinez, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka; Sabitzer, McTominay; Sancho, Fernandes, Antony; Rashford

EVE: Pickford; Godfrey, Tarkowski, Keane, Coleman; McNeil, Onana, Gueye, Iwobi; Simms, Gray

Dutchman Erik ten Hag made three changes to his backline from the side’s hard-earned victory against the Bees at Old Trafford just three days ago, as the fixtures come thick and fast for United between now and the end of the season.

England full-back Luke Shaw limped out of that one and was replaced by Tyrell Malacia, whilst there was a rare outing for club captain Harry Maguire with Rafael Varane rested ahead of the Europa League quarter-final first-leg tie against Spanish outfit Sevilla. Aaron Wan-Bissaka continues to share full-back duties and got the nod in the eleven over the Portuguese international Diogo Dalot for this one. 

Toffees boss Sean Dyche had the luxury of an extra couple of days of preparation, with his side having not been involved in action in midweek. The former Burnley manager had one enforced change though, bringing in forward Ellis Simms for midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure who was starting the first of a three-match suspension following his straight red card against Spurs last time out. 

It was the home side that started the brightest fashioning the first chance as Austrian midfielder Marcel Sabitzer received a pass from Jadon Sancho on the left, before turning his marker and striking a low effort toward the bottom left-hand corner of the Everton goal. England’s Jordan Pickford was alert to the danger, diving low to tip the effort around the post. 

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Pickford would be the busier of the two goalkeepers as the Red Devils, buoyed by the rousing vocal home support, almost opened the scoring through Rashford. The England striker muscled through a challenge from James Tarkowski, powering a powerful effort at Pickford. His effort lacked placement and was palmed away to safety by his England teammate.

United would be scratching their heads minutes later that they were not a goal to the good. After forcing a corner, Everton failed to clear their lines providing Antony with room to shoot from the edge of the box.  The Brazilian’s well-placed effort caught Pickford off guard, striking the woodwork and falling to full back Wan-Bissaka. The former Crystal Palace man lacked the composure to slot home from six yards, scuffing his first-time finish wide of the empty net. 

Everton would grow into the half and created a golden opportunity of their own. Simms played a give-and-go with Coleman before finding space in the penalty area to make room for a shot. The strike lacked power and placement though, and was unable to test home goalkeeper David De Gea – ultimately trickling wide of the far post. 

The first period continued to be fairly open, and the hosts looked dangerous on the counter attack. Fernandes snatched the ball in the midfield before releasing Antony down the right channel. The former Ajax speedster outpaced Everton’s Ben Godfrey, but once again found Pickford who did well to deny his low effort. 

United finally found the back of the net just after the thirty-minute mark, as their pressure began to pay off. Rashford drew out several defenders before laying off for Sancho, who then played a precise pass to McTominay. The Scottish international continued his fine goalscoring form, firing past a stranded Pickford to bag his fifth goal in as many games.

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Antony almost doubled the lead as the half came to a close. Everton’s high line was exploited, but Pickford was there to keep his side in the match with a crucial save – palming the effort wide. Everton knew they would have to improve to get anything out of the game, with United having not dropped any points from winning positions at Old Trafford this season.  

Dominant in possession, the second half started much like the first. The pacey trio of Rashford, Sancho and Antony continued to cause the Everton backline regular problems – but it was Marcel Sabitzer’s delivery that produced United’s next chance. The Austrian’s pinpoint cross found the head of Bruno Fernandes, forcing Pickford to tip the Portuguese playmaker’s header over the crossbar.  

Pressing quicker as a unit, the visitors would deny United as much time on the ball – drawing mistakes and frustrations. This would lead to their own best spell of the game but the Toffees still lacked quality in the final third. 

It was United though that found the second goal of the game, capitalising on a mistake from Everton captain Seamus Coleman. Failing to trap a long ball over the top of the Toffee’s backline, the Irishman lost possession to the alert Rashford, whose teasing cross between the two visiting centre-halves found substitute Martial. The Frenchman duly slotted home from close range.

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Dyche’s side fought valiantly and would come close through Demarai Grey’s effort fired across the face of goal, but it was be a rare clear-cut opening. Ultimately though, Sean Dyche’s side couldn’t find a breakthrough – and return back to Merseyside empty-handed.

United’s day was spoilt as the game came to a close with the loss of Rashford through a calf injury. Erik ten Hag’s side managed to hold out for the final few minutes, comfortably seeing out a victory that moves the Old Trafford outfit into third place in the Premier League table. As for Everton, they remain deep in trouble and could find themselves back in the bottom three if results over the weekend don’t go their way.