Anthony Martial was the star of the show as Manchester United beat Everton 2-1 in Sunday’s Premier League encounter at Old Trafford. The Frenchman scored one and earned a penalty for the other, as José Mourinho’s side hung on to win only their third home game of the season.
With neither side able to dominate possession in an open and even first half, the game came down to a matter of individual technique; less of an organised tactical battle than a chaotic succession of one-on-one duels. If anyone excels in that kind of scenario, it’s Martial. The Frenchman single-handedly carved the game’s first real chance, jinking to the byline before floating a cross into the area for a free Juan Mata, though Everton keeper Jordan Pickford proved equal to his effort.
Martial soon stung Pickford’s palms with a dipping long-distance shot, though his first decisive intervention came as he won a penalty midway through the opening period. His fall was exaggerated, though Idrissa Gueye’s intervention clumsy, and there was little surprise when the referee pointed to the spot. Paul Pogba stepped up with characteristic confidence, though his blushes were spared only by the luck of the rebound: having been initially denied at the end of a long and stuttering run-up, he tucked home at the second attempt. 1-0.
Everton continued to threaten on the counter-attack, though had failed to seriously test David de Gea by halftime. The result was that another moment of Martial brilliance doubled United’s lead just five minutes after the restart. Laid off by Pogba on the edge of the penalty area, Martial whipped a low shot around Pickford and just inside the far post. It was a brilliant goal to mark a similarly impressive performance; it’s hard to envisage Mourinho relegating him to the bench any time soon.
If United thought the game had been won, they were given a stark reminder of Everton’s attacking threat just three minutes later. Tricky forward Bernard should’ve scored after rounding de Gea, though contrived to shank into the side-netting with an open goal gaping. It was one latter-day Fernando Torres would’ve been proud of. But not even that was that.
With a quarter-hour left on the clock, and United looking at risk of cruising to a comfortable win, Chris Smalling decided to restore cosmic order. His awful tackle on Richarlison left Jon Moss with no choice but to point to the penalty spot for the second time in the match, and Gylfi Sigurðsson stepped up to fire beyond de Gea. To their credit, however, United didn’t melt under Everton’s late pressure, and only a late save from Pickford prevented Martial from adding a third.