Everton 1-0 Man United (Gordon 27′)
Just three days after losing to relegation rivals Burnley, Everton boosted their Premier League survival hopes with Anthony Gordon’s deflected strike securing a vital victory against Manchester United, whose top-four chances took another hit.
Marcus Rashford was recalled to Ralf Rangnick’s starting line-up for a league fixture for the first time since the 3-2 win against Spurs in March and he began with plenty of intent, forcing England colleague Jordan Pickford into two impressive saves early on.
Pickford flung himself to his right to keep out a well-struck half-volley and then made a fine reaction stop from a header that bounced just in front of him.
Just as the first audible groans drifted down to the pitch from the stands, Everton went in front. It looked as though a promising opportunity had vanished when Gordon overhit a pass to Richarlison who had a free run on United’s goal, however, the Brazilian recovered possession and his pass towards Alex Iwobi ricocheted into Gordon’s path with his shot taking a wicked deflection off Harry Maguire on his way in.
David De Gea, who was powerless to prevent Everton’s opener, made a superb stop to deny them a second, acrobatically tipping a dipping Richarlison shot that had taken a nick off Maguire over the crossbar. At the other end, Vitaly Mykolenko made a crucial intervention to prevent a near-certain goal as Cristiano Ronaldo lurked ominously at the back post.
Rashford’s toils continued after the break after he failed to get a telling touch to a searching pass from Bruno Fernandes with Pickford caught out of position.
Rashford was taken off soon after with Rangnick introducing Anthony Elanga in his place. And it was a sign of the German’s growing exasperation at what he was witnessing that Juan Mata was summoned for the first time in the Premier League this season.
Gordon, the one shining light from a dreary season for Everton, continued to cause United problems with his direct running and movement.
Neat interplay between the 21-year-old and Dominic Calvert-Lewin almost carved United’s defense open, but Aaron Wan-Bissaka was on hand to deny Richarlison a certain tap-in and soon after he had a penalty appeal waved away after a tangle of legs with Alex Telles.
United belatedly registered their first shot on target of the second half nine minutes from time when Paul Pogba, introduced as a first-half sub for the injured Fred, tested Pickford with a low strike from range that was well held by the England ‘keeper. Moments later, Demarai Gray made a vital sliding block from a Wan-Bissaka volley as Everton stood firm.
And in the second minute of added time, Pickford made yet another important save from a Ronaldo volley to preserve his clean sheet and help his side over the line, much to the relief of Lampard and the Goodison faithful.
- Mykolenko – 8
- Alan – 6
- Gordon – 8
- Calvert-Lewin – 6
- Richarlison – 7
Man United (4-2-3-1)
- De Gea – 7
- Wan-Bissaka – 6
- Maguire – 6
- Telles – 6
- Matic – 5
- Sancho – 5
- Fernandes – 7
- Ronaldo – 5
- Elanga – 6
- Kill – 6
The battle at the bottom: How the table looks
- 16. Leeds – Played 31, points 30
- 17. Everton – Played 30, points 28
- 18. Burnley – Played 29, points 24
- 19. Watford – Played 30, points 22
- 20. Norwich – Played 30, points 18
Analysis: Rashford endures further frustration after rare start
As has become customary in recent months, Rashford’s struggle for form was a central theme of BT Sport’s pre-match coverage. Rio Ferdinand suggested that uncertainty over his future at the club and role under Rangnick were both important factors.
“I think it stems from the uncertainty of the football club, the uncertainty with the manager and [of] his contract,” Ferdinand said. “When he’s played, he’s been out of position and not played as much as he wants under this manager.”
Rashford has tended to play on the right wing this season to accommodate Jadon Sancho and it was telling that he looked far more comfortable when shifted back to the left flank. A lively start almost yielded two goals with Pickford twice called into action to prevent United’s No 10 from opening the scoring.
However, as United’s grip on the game loosened, Rashford’s influence began to wane. So much so that he was withdrawn just past the hour mark with the precocious Anthony Elanga introduced in his place by him. After struggling to seize his opportunity, Rashford cut a forlorn figure as he jogged off the pitch.
In truth, he was no less ineffective than United’s other starting attackers, Ronaldo or Sancho, but his withdrawal as Rangnick sought a route back into the game, was indicative of his diminished status at the club.
Delph: Win a massive relief for Everton
Delph, making only his fourth league start of the campaign and first since December was colossal in midfield, earning BT Sport’s man of the match award.
Coming off the back of the last game [against Burnley] there was a lot of disappointment, heads were down as you’d expect,” he said. ” We needed to regroup and did that. We came into the game with a good game plan and we had to stick together out there. There were times when it was tough but finally we got three points.”
He added: “We expected them to have chances, they are a top team with top players so it was about riding the storm and we managed to do that and come away with the three points. Honestly it’s a massive relief for the fans, players, management team and everyone associated with Everton.”
Everton have struggled badly away from home all season, earning only six points on the road and Gordon admitted that playing at Goodison Park lifted the players.
“You can see by our results here, every time we play here we usually get a result or a clean sheet so we definitely feed off them and are a better team with them,” he said.
Rangnick: Off-field distractions are not an excuse: De Gea: We were a disgrace
Rangnick refused to blame United’s ongoing managerial search as a reason for the disappointing result that keeps United in seventh place in the Premier League table. The club has been strongly linked with a move for Ajax manager Erik ten Hag ahead of the new season.
Asked whether United are “in limbo” until a new manager is hired, Rangnick responded:” No. I don’t think this should be an excuse to nobody. We are Manchester United, we have a lot of international players. This cannot be an excuse or an alibi to anybody.
“We shouldn’t be distracted by that. There will be a new manager next season and if this is being announced now or in 10 or 14 or 20 days, it should have no effect to games like today.”
On United’s diminishing top-four hopes, he added: “We have spoken about that quite a few times and depending on other results. But as long as we don’t win our own games, we will never have good results from the other teams.
“The only thing that we can do is stick together. Now we have Fred injured with Scott McTominay that means both defensive sixes might be injured, hopefully not for too long. Yeah, that’s all we can do and then prepare for the Norwich game.”
De Gea was more damning in his assessment of United’s display, labeling their performance a “disgrace”.
“We knew before we came here that they were struggling and how difficult it is to play here even if they are not in a good mood,” De Gea began. “But they played on Wednesday, they were tired, a bit nervous you could feel it and even with that we lost the game.
“It’s a disgrace from us to be honest. We should win this game. We don’t create, that’s the problem, we don’t even create proper chances to score. I don’t know what to say to be honest, we are not good enough that’s for sure. It’s going to be very difficult now to get in the top four.”
I have added that Everton had “more desire” than United on the day.