4-0 is the new 1-1
When Everton came to Old Trafford in April, the home side never looked like scoring. By this late stage of the season supporters had grown gloomily familiar with the neurosis that dominated Manchester United’s attacking play, and their blushes were only saved by a late Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty.
Fast forward five months and Jose Mourinho’s men have claimed their third 4-0 win in five Premier League games. This was United’s least exhilarating 4-0 win but also their best for that exact reason: that they romped home to such a successful scoreline despite looking like they would concede an equaliser for the majority of the second period serves as a potent indicator of the sheer firepower and confidence teeming through Jose Mourinho’s attack.
The shift in mood from last season, where it was impossible to even visualise United scoring at times, could not be more pronounced.
No love lost between Everton and Romelu Lukaku
For some reason, the relationship between Romelu Lukaku and Everton supporters has never been perfect – despite the Belgian claiming the top goalscorer award at Goodison Park for four years in a row. He was often targeted by supporters for failing to provide a wider impact on their side’s play and, in turn, always had an eye towards the exit door.
But for some time it looked as if the 24-year-old wouldn’t inflict any damage on his old club. He missed a glorious chance to double United’s lead in the 26th minute and hardly received a touch in the second half.
Patience, however, is a crowing aspect of Lukaku’s approach and he eventually pushed the knife in on his former club in the final ten minutes, providing a perfectly-guided assist for Henrikh Mkhitaryan before silencing the travelling fans with a textbook poacher’s finish. He now has seven goals in as many games whilst Everton lie forlornly in the bottom three with just two Premier League goals.
United’s left hand side is an issue
Stoke City received plenty of joy attacking United’s left hand side last weekend, efficiently shifting play from left to right and leaving Matteo Darmian constantly looking over his shoulder, notably lacking help from either Phil Jones or Marcus Rashford further up the pitch.
And such was the case once again against Everton. Right wing back Cuco Martina and Tom Davies worked well together and often bombed forward past Ashley Young with acres of space around them. No help came from Rashford, Jones or Nemanja Matic, possibly due to Mourinho’s emphasis on maintaining a dynamic shape. But make no mistake: this is a weak spot in an otherwise solid defensive structure, and better teams will make United pay for it further down the line.
Antonio Valencia is a special asset
Old Trafford never really pays true homage to Antonio Valencia’s ruthless brilliance with players further up the pitch writing the headlines, but the entire watching world was implored to sit up and take notice as the Ecuadorian, with just four minutes played, lashed home one of the fiercest drives seen in recent years. It was a rip-snorter, a missile, a shot so ferocious it broke the sound barrier and almost created a black hole.
Such a special strike laid an important platform from which to dominate the visitors and Valencia, as usual, afforded Everton next to no space on the right hand side with another disciplined, powerful display.
Wayne Rooney has found his calling at Everton
The sight of Wayne Rooney wearing blue will never, ever look right, and his presence at the masthead of attack was a decidedly unsettling image. You could hear the sharp intake of breath as his first time shot angled just the wrong side of David de Gea’s right post in the first half.
Indeed, he was Everton’s biggest threat at Old Trafford. There were times last season where he looked lost on the pitch, like a blunt object whose purpose was unknown, but Ronald Koeman – in spite of all the troubles encircling his club – has found the 31-year-old a clear role.
He was a live wire playing as a false nine, dropping deep to help shift play out wide and, in turn, exploiting space in behind. He worked indefatigably and gave Jones a handful of problems, only for his potency in front of goal to let him down. Nevertheless, Rooney plays an important role in this Everton side and there was enough on show from Koeman’s men to suggest they can turn around this poor start to the 2017/18 campaign.