Manchester United maintained their perfect home record with a flattering 4-0 win over Everton on Sunday. An early opener from Antonio Valencia was capped by late goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial, in a win that ensures José Mourinho’s side move level on points with Premier League pacesetters Manchester City.
It took less than four minutes for the Ecuadorian to score the best goal the Stretford End is likely to see this season, half-volleying a fizzing Nemanja Matić cross into Jordan Pickford’s top corner from out on the right. It was his first goal at Old Trafford in over three years, and one he’s not likely to repeat any time soon.
The early strike had Everton stunned, and United subsequently dominated the game’s first quarter. It took until midway through the first half before the hosts were given a scare, though the returning Wayne Rooney could only drag Cuco Martina’s low cross wide of David de Gea’s far post.
Everton were sloppy on the ball, and Morgan Schneiderlin should’ve been punished for gifting Juan Mata possession in the centre of the park five minutes later. Alas, Lukaku — playing against his former club — was in equally generous spirits, and fired wide of Jordan Pickford’s goal once sent through.
As halftime drew nearer the Toffees made territorial gains, but United’s defence remained resolute. Mourinho’s men were happy to revert to counter-attacking type, and almost doubled their advantage after a swift interchange between Lukaku and Marcus Rashford shortly before the break.
The second half was — initially, at least — a rather different story. Rooney could've punished United’s profligacy after some smart play from Tom Davies within a minute of the restart, though de Gea was on hand at the near post to deny the assembled press their big slice of narrative pie. The ex-United captain was presented with a similar chance just past the hour, though once again the Spanish shot-stopper was Rooney’s equal.
United's lead looked increasingly precarious, a rare second half chance coming when Mata rattled the woodwork with a free-kick on the edge of the box. Lukaku was uncharacteristically absent up top, and the Reds’ counter-attacks lacked their usual precision. Substitute Jesse Lingard brought his usual bustle, but also his frustrating abandon.
When the second goal did come, it was more the result of Everton’s sloppiness than any great attacking play. A terrible error by Ashley Williams was punished by an otherwise quiet Mkhitaryan, the Armenian slotting Lukaku’s square ball beyond Pickford to kill the game. Little did we know it would trigger the visitors’ complete collapse.
After Mkhitaryan’s goal, Everton unravelled, and Lukaku soon seized the opportunity to do what Rooney couldn't. He showed his former club what they were missing by netting the game’s third, tapping home Lingard's assist in the final minute of the 90. A fourth followed within two minutes, substitute Anthony Martial slotting home from the penalty spot after Schneiderlin handled inside United’s box.
The final whistle sounded at 4-0, the scoreline greatly flattering the hosts. For the lion’s share of an artless encounter, Valencia’s moment of genius was all that separated the sides. Not for the first time this season, Mourinho’s men look better on the scoreboard than in reality. This was, however, always likely to be a tricky fixture, and goals — however meritorious — are always valuable.