United celebrates scoring
The big positive for Ole Gunnar Solskaer’s side, other than the points, was the variation in their attacking play.
There was clearly an amount of good passing in build-up play at times, one-touch passes and movement off the ball, with the equalising goal resulting from one such spell on the ball.
But they also countered at speed and in numbers off corners, were able to launch a few early counters in open play transitions and had some success off their own set pieces.
With the players available to them that’s exactly as it should be, and shows that in one half of the pitch at least there are reasons to think they’re near where they want to be.
At the back it’s a different matter still. Fred and Scott McTominay set a good midfield platform, but Victor Lindelof was frequently uncertain in his marking and the full-backs were both beaten with ease.
Everton’s opening goal was a good example of the lack of unity in the defensive line: a simple goal kick ended in a goal, with one headed challenge not won, the following run not tracked and nobody behind on the cover.
That said, the concerns weren’t all at one end of the pitch.
Everton’s own defence was weak in marking and defending the ball on crosses, while Jordan Pickford produced his customary error of the game.
It also appears to be open season at Goodison Park for the home team making clear fouls inside their own penalty box and not being punished for it.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side secured a vital victory
Both these sides have been praised for different reasons early on this season…and criticised soon after, too.
It’s abundantly clear that suggestions Everton could challenge anywhere near the top were wildly overstated and far too early, with their strength in depth always likely to be problematic.
That was evidenced here off the bench: while United brought on Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani, Carlo Ancelotti had to turn to Alex Iwobi who has habitually been out of favour and isn’t a match-winner with regularity.
There’s still a long way to go, particularly when the starters don’t have a great game as was the case today for the likes of James Rodriguez.
Fantastic…and fortunate, Fernandes
Two goals (presuming the second is given to him), several other chances, a really industrious performance, the ultimate difference on the day.
That was Bruno Fernandes for United, the fulcrum of their attacking moves and the player who can make the step up in the final third and his time on the ball count – and there wasn’t even a penalty in sight today, plus an assist at the end.
But then there was the other side of his game, on show also.
The Portuguese attacker was absurdly fortunate to not be sent-off, being booked in the first half, arguing with the referee throughout, committing a game-high five fouls during the course of the game – including what seemed a painfully obvious second yellow which saw him clatter through his man with around 10 minutes to play.
Perfect on the road for one team, a train lacking steam for the other.
United’s league position isn’t cause for celebration, but three away wins from three away games is another big positive for Solskjaer to point to.
As for Everton, it’s three straight defeats and no wins in four – hardly the type of form to worry the sides aiming for European spots.
There remains a long way to go, but with the winner in the bottom half and the loser in the top five, it’s a reminder that consistency is everything across the course of the campaign.
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