EVERTON vs MANCHESTER UNITED
Van Gaal talked of playing like champions and this was a game where a performance like that has been missing for a few years.
In: Jones, Rojo, Schneiderlin and Herrera.
Out: Blind, Young, Carrick and Memphis.
- Herrera busy and central made a massive impact in disrupting Everton’s build up play.
- Martial tracking back was a big part of United’s strategy, restricting Seamus Coleman.
- Schneiderlin attempted 70 passes, completing an impressive 97.1% of those, the most of any visiting player.
- United were more clinical than usual. They had fewer shots but more were on target and they created 4 clear cut chances.
- United ceded possession to Everton and a rarity, United didn’t top the passing combination charts.
United started with their now usual 4-2-3-1 shape, Mata narrow and Martial on the left and a very industrious Herrera in the centre. This gave United a good spread of positioning in the opening phase which was pleasing to see and when they were defending the formation assumed a 4-4-2 shape. Meanwhile Everton played a 4-3-2-1 with Lukaku playing a high line. This helped to make for an entertaining and even game in the first 20 minutes.
A common problem this season has been the quality in the final third and there were a number of times when the pass into the final third was from too far back; it required 10 yard passes not 30 yard ones.
Boom! United’s first chance came about after Schweinsteiger pushed on and exchanged a series of neat passes leading to a Herrera shot. This shot was deflected and it led to the corner which then led to the goal. The ball landed to Rojo, then onto Smalling’s chest to Schneiderlin who then smashed it into his opposite corner to make it 1-0 after 18 minutes.
It was clear that part of United’s strategy was to allow Everton’s central defender to bring the ball forward but to ensure that the opportunities to pass were out to wide positions. The effectiveness of Naismith was nullified which made a big difference and he was bypassed resulting in Everton opting for more long balls than anticipated. Martial stayed wide and chased back a lot. He was effective in preventing an out ball to Coleman and preventing the Everton right back from advancing.
Boom! 2-0 up after an apparent foul on Martial allowed Rojo to run into a lot of space make a great cross for Herrera, who was also allowed plenty of room to then head in. What was great about the goal was that Martial’s positioning drew the defender out creating the room for Rojo to move into. United’s second goal came after 22 minutes.
United now controlled the rest of the half playing, dominating possession and asking most of the questions.
At half-time United introduced Lingard for Mata and Everton introduced Kone for the ineffective Naismith.
Concentration was now key for United. Too many times recently they have looked vulnerable when holding such a lead. It seemed initially as if this was going to be a similar story here as Everton started the half brightly playing higher up the pitch and pressing United. Kone made an impact, holding ball up and playing across the line. The danger thought was that United could now sit on their 2 goal lead and wait an opportunity to pick the home side off on the break.
Perhaps this was why United had now introduced Lingard, aother quick player capable of leading a breakaway. Lingard was wider and higher than Mata had been and this created more pockets of space for United as Everton came up against a solid rearguard with the impressive Schneiderlin providing that extra line of cover.
After Everton’s initial rally it all went to plan as United did catch Everton on the break to make it 3-0 on 62 minutes. Boom! This was a joy to watch as Everton gave the ball away and Herrera had plenty of time to pick out Rooney with an early pass on the break to run on and score.
With Everton now in disarray Schweinsteiger was now showing his full range of passing ability and his ability to dictate play. He and the rest of the team were aided by the space afforded by Everton but United had played well and tired Everton out with their possession game, they had no response to United’s play.
On 75 minutes Van Gaal replaced Schweinsteiger with Carrick and later in the half Fellaini replaced Herrera.
A final mention to Martial who made great runs to the byline throughout the game, he always tried to take people on and kept the usually impressive Coleman in check. United continued to control the game and should have gone on to score more.
The quietly and not so quietly terrier like nature of both Schneiderlin and Herrera’s respective approaches really made the difference in this performance. They contributed to a deserved victory that was borne from the base of great defending and also proactive winning of the ball. Even when United sat deep they still looked composed. The defence appeared stronger as Smalling and/or Jones dealt with the robust opponent, Lukaku. Even when Kone made an initial impact he was victim to the solidity of the central defenders.
Rooney often on the ball when United attacked on the counter didn’t do as much as hoped but he needs support and he needs players buzzing past him. He didn’t always have that here. There were other standout performances from Rojo, Schweinsteiger and obviously Martial who made a solid team contribution.
Everton didn’t help themselves, they gave the ball away a number of times, Jagielka in particular and it was this carelessness that led to United’s second and third goal.
This was a good performance and is best concluded by the words of Van Gaal,
“I am a very happy coach and am also very proud. It’s a fantastic team performance I think after the defeat against Arsenal we needed that. It’s very important to have won today”.