Manchester United moved up to sixth in the Premier League table with a 3-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park that was lit up by Alejandro Garnacho’s acrobatic goal.
His stunning overhead kick put United ahead inside three minutes and though Everton had chances to level it, Marcus Rashford’s penalty and Anthony Martial’s neat finish put it beyond Sean Dyche’s side in their first game since being deducted 10 points.
The defeat means Everton remain 19th while Erik ten Hag’s fifth win in six Premier League games, one achieved while he was watching on from the stands serving a touchline suspension, means United are now only six points off the top of the table.
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How Man Utd won it
As a result of that 10-point deduction for a breach of profit and sustainability rules, handed down by an independent commission and imposed with immediate effect, Everton began the day five points from safety following Luton’s win on Saturday.
Supporters made their feelings known just as the players and staff had. “All we can affect is what’s in front of us,” Dominic Calvert-Lewin said beforehand. In their programme notes, Sean Dyche, Seamus Coleman and Kevin Thelwell shared similar sentiments.
United could have been impacted by the atmosphere of righteous indignation among the home support. “That is their fuel,” Ten Hag had said. “We have to match those standards.” They more than did so in the opening minutes, taking control from the outset.
Everton had barely had a kick of the ball when Victor Lindelof’s sweeping pass found Marcus Rashford on the flank and Diogo Dalot crossed for Garnacho. There could be no anticipating what followed. His acrobatic volley found the far corner of Jordan Pickford’s net.
It was a stunning goal, perhaps the best of the season, and seemed to justify Ten Hag’s optimism. Despite their travails in Europe, they came into the game as one of the form teams in the Premier League. “We have seen a turning point,” he had claimed.
Everton, for their part, started sluggishly given the atmosphere but that changed when they had a flurry of good opportunities half an hour into the game. United were fortunate to withstand the pressure with their advantage intact. Andre Onana saved them.
There was a smart save from Calvert-Lewin’s header and an even better one low to his left to keep out the striker soon after. Dwight McNeil should have converted from the rebound but the ball was cleared off the line by Kobbie Mainoo on his full Premier League debut. Abdoulaye Doucoure then missed when well placed.
The equaliser appeared inevitable at that stage and might have come in the 41st minute when the unmarked Calvert-Lewin headed over. The England international was a handful and it was his run that set up Idrissa Gueye only for him to miss the target too.
Dyche had bemoaned Everton’s finishing at Goodison Park earlier this season and this was another occasion when their profligacy in front of goal was a problem. United, with 18-year-old Mainoo showing composure in midfield, somehow held on to half-time.
They reasserted control in the second half and were rewarded with a second goal from the penalty spot. It needed a VAR review to spot the lazy leg that Ashley Young had stuck out in tripping Martial, who was initially yellow carded for simulating contact.
Rashford did the rest with an emphatic strike from the spot. Gueye did force another diving save from Onana but when Martial finished nonchalantly beyond Pickford after being slipped in on goal by Bruno Fernandes, any hope of a comeback was over.
When Vitalii Mykolenko’s late shot came back off the bar, it summed up their afternoon. Everton were left wondering what might have been and must prepare for this relegation battle. United, for all of their own challenges, are looking upwardly mobile again.
Luke Shaw is back fit, Mainoo looks a good option in midfield, while Rashford and Martial have both brought lengthy goal droughts to an end. Just the boost that Ten Hag needed given the tests that they will face away to Galatasaray and Newcastle next week.
Neville: That’s gymnastics, not football!
Sky Sports’ Gary Neville speaking on the Gary Neville podcast:
“I’ve not seen a goal as good as that from an overhead kick, that’s the most beautiful one. There was Giroud’s scorpion kick goal which I’d never seen before, but it’s a different technique.
“I was there the day Wayne Rooney scored his against Man City. That was an amazing goal at that point in the game, but today I just felt that was something I had not seen before.
“What struck me straight away was how he had to go in and come back out and move his feet quite quickly, and all of a sudden throws himself in the air.
“As I said just before the end of commentary, I played professional football for a long time, and I can’t do that. I’m not talking about the overhead kick, I’m talking about getting into the air to make that contact. I’d break my neck!
“Most players wouldn’t know how to do it. It’s gymastics, it’s not football. It’s the best overhead kick I’ve ever seen. The Rooney one is close to it, but that for me is just better.”
Analysis: Mainoo shines in midfield
The on-air player of the match award went to Garnacho given his remarkable goal, but Manchester United supporters will be equally enthused by the performance of Mainoo in midfield. It was astonishing how composed he looked in the middle of the pitch.
It was instant too. On an occasion when the febrile atmosphere at Goodison Park had many wondering whether Manchester United would be able to cope, he found time and space where there should have been none, unafraid to put his foot on the ball.
“He has a lot of abilities,” said Ten Hag afterwards.
“It was a really disappointing moment in pre-season when he got a bad injury, for him and also for our team because I know he can progress a lot if he plays as he did today. I know young players can develop quickly. We thought it was the moment to bring him in.”
When substituted to a warm ovation from the travelling support, Mainoo had completed 34 of his 41 passes – boasting the best passing accuracy of anyone in the United starting line-up. It was a vindication of the faith shown in him by Ten Hag, preferring him to Sofyan Amrabat.
Couple that with the defensive work that he did, most notably clearing the ball off the goal-line when it appeared that Dwight McNeil had forced home the equaliser, and Mainoo appears to be a player who can impact the game with and without the ball.
The form and fitness of Casemiro has left a void in midfield this season and with Mason Mount out for the foreseeable future, a double pivot looks likely to be the preferred option. Ten Hag now knows he has a talented teenager ready to step into that role.
“He did a great job. Now he has to build on this.”
Ten Hag: ‘Already goal of the season’
“It was a good performance today,” said Ten Hag in his post-match press conference. “We started very good, exactly how we planned it, scored a great goal, not only the finish – the finish was fantastic – but the way we speeded it up, the overlap for the cross.
“But in the first half we were too passive, too easy-going, too comfortable. I was not pleased with that part of the game. Everton had chances. In the second half, we were proactive. It was a very good performance.”
A performance that will be remembered for that Garnacho goal.
“It was a fantastic goal. There are still many games to play but it was probably already the goal of the season,” said Ten Hag. But when asked to compare Garnacho’s potential to that of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, scorers of similar goals, he urged caution.
“Don’t compare. I don’t think it’s right. For Garnacho to go that way, there is a lot to come. He has to work very hard and do it on consistent basis. At the moment he is not. But he has potential to do amazing things, we have seen this.
“If he wants to be a player like Rooney or Ronaldo he has to score 20 to 25 Premier League goals, that is very hard. He has to go to places where it hurts. But potential he has.”
Dyche bemoans VAR after defeat
“For a large part, we were very good, particularly the first half,” said Dyche.
They get off to a worldie, a [once-in-a]-lifetime goal and got the better of the first 15 but then we regrouped well, they ended up kicking it long. We created chances, couldn’t end up scoring a goal and it hurts you in the end.
“A worldie, a tough decision and then a good finish from their lad.”
That tough decision was the penalty awarded following a VAR review.
“The way this VAR is it is all over the place, you keep staring at people. We have a covering defender, he is never going to get it. Going on about VAR generally for fans, the screen thing is a farce, everyone is talking about speeding the game up and they go over to the screen and we all know what the outcome is. They stand there staring at a screen. He walks over there stares for a minute and then gives the decision.
“The directive is we are going to give the referees more power. I will just have to ring the powers that be and have them explain what is a clear and obvious error.
“You can debate them all you want. The idea of VAR, they look for contact and that that is not what they should be. You can find contact in every box in every decision, it is a tough one to call, if it went against us, would I be disappointed? No.”
Man Utd’s win in stats
- Manchester United have won five of their last six Premier League games. Since the start of October, their five wins and 15 points are both the most any side has recorded in the competition.
- Manchester United scored three goals in a Premier League away game for the first time since their 6-3 defeat at Manchester City in October 2022.
- After just two minutes and 13 seconds, Alejandro Garnacho scored Manchester United’s earliest Premier League goal by a teenager.
- Marcus Rashford has scored 11 of the 13 penalties he has taken for Manchester United excluding shootouts, including each of his last eight in a row.
- Anthony Martial scored his seventh Premier League goal against Everton, at least two more than he has versus any other side.
Everton travel to Nottingham Forest in the Premier League on Saturday December 2, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 5.30pm.
Man Utd are in Champions League action on Wednesday when they travel to Galatasaray; kick-off 5.45pm.
They then travel to Newcastle in the Premier League on Saturday December 2; kick-off 8pm.