Manchester United edged past Everton to move to within five points of the Premier League’s top four.
Jose Mourinho’s side were second best throughout Tuesday’s 1-0 Champions League defeat by Juventus, but climbed up two places to eighth after victory at Old Trafford over the Toffees.
The hosts went ahead through Paul Pogba’s fortuitous strike – making a stuttering 26-step run-up to take a penalty that was saved by Jordan Pickford, then tucking home the rebound when it fell straight back to him.
Pogba fed fellow Frenchman Anthony Martial to curl in a delightful, first-time finish from the edge of the box in the second half.
Everton, whose three-game winning run came to an end, had chances of their own but Bernard hit the side netting after going round David de Gea and the Spain goalkeeper saved sharply from Richarlison’s low strike.
Midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson converted a penalty with 12 minutes remaining, but United held on to their advantage.
New-look Man Utd?
Even at this early stage in the season, United cannot afford to drop many more points if they want to achieve their minimum target of Champions League qualification come May.
After 10 games, they are nine points behind league leaders Liverpool, but were helped by fourth-placed Arsenal dropping points at Crystal Palace earlier on Sunday.
There also seems to be a new drama surrounding the club with each passing week and much has been written about the manager’s future, the relationship with his players, and the team bus arriving late to the ground for games – while a newspaper report suggested that some players are to be fined for not attending a sponsorship event.
They put that aside against Everton, looking a slightly different prospect after striker Romelu Lukaku was dropped to the bench on the back of his eight-game goalless run.
With Marcus Rashford – who had a goal ruled out for offside – deployed up front and industrious summer signing Fred in the middle of the park alongside Nemanja Matic, France World Cup winner Pogba was allowed to break forward and managed a goal and an assist.
Pogba’s liberated role also saw him have more touches on the ball (88) and more passes (67) than any other player on the pitch, but it was his misplaced pass that led to Everton’s consolation.
United showed plenty of energy and vigour, particularly the dangerous Martial, who caused the opposition backline problems all game.
One piece of clever skill and a cross found Juan Mata, who headed straight at Pickford, and it was Martial who was tripped by Idrissa Gueye for Pogba’s penalty.
The former Monaco forward capped his excellent performance with a superb finish to score his fourth goal in three league games and he could have had more, but saw a thumping effort, plus a low strike in injury time, both kept out by Pickford.
Mourinho said: “Martial coped well with his development process. He took quite a long time to understand what we want from him, quite a long time for his brain and body to be ready for how we want him to play.
“At the moment he is solid, playing very well. Even if he doesn’t score, to create what he is creating, it is a solid performance for the team. That is what we need.”
Bernard the bright spark
Going into the game, Everton were above their opponents in the league, after a winning streak which had seen them beat Fulham, Leicester and most recently against Crystal Palace with two late goals.
But they have now been beaten 36 times in the Premier League by United – a competition record for a single club against one opposition – and are winless in their past 19 games against the established top six.
Although their approach play was eye-catching at times against United, they were left disappointed by poor decision-making or lacklustre finishing in the final third.
Andre Gomes and Sigurdsson both headed straight at De Gea from promising positions, while Theo Walcott struck efforts which were comfortable for the goalkeeper to gather.
Free signing Bernard was a bright spark with his nifty footwork and intelligence, but the Brazilian missed a clear-cut opportunity when failing to hit the target from the angle.
It proved to be costly as his side failed to gain a point despite being given hope when Sigurdsson netted his fourth goal as a visiting player at Old Trafford after Chris Smalling chopped down Richarlison in the box.
Everton boss Marco Silva said: “It was a tough match but we came here to win. It is the only way we work. When the game is balanced in the first 20-35 minutes, the penalty starts to put them ahead in the match and more comfortable.”
Man of the match – Anthony Martial (Man Utd)
Manchester United travel to the south coast to face Bournemouth next Saturday (kick-off 12:30 GMT), while Everton are at home against Brighton on the same day (15:00).
Pogba’s prowess – the stats
- Manchester United have scored 100 Premier League goals against Everton, more than they have managed against any other side.
- Everton are without a win in their past 30 Premier League away games against the ‘big six’ (D9 L21), since a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford against Manchester United in December 2013.
- Chris Smalling made his 300th competitive appearance for Manchester United – of their current players, only David de Gea (328) and Antonio Valencia (335) have registered more.
- Paul Pogba has been involved in 31 Premier League goals since the start of 2016-17 (14 goals, 17 assists): more than any other Manchester United player.
- Against Everton, Manchester United midfielder Pogba has scored one and assisted three in two Premier League games in 2018.
- Manchester United winger Anthony Martial has scored four Premier League goals against Everton, more than he has managed against any other side.
- Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson has scored four goals against Manchester United in the Premier League: against no side has he scored more often.
- Only Steven Gerrard has scored more Premier League goals at Old Trafford as a visiting player (five) than Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson (four).