LIVERPOOL — Everton kept their race for a top four spot on track, as the Toffees’ beat Manchester United 2-0 at Goodison Park on Sunday. The victory marked the first-time Everton had beaten United home and away in the league since 1970, as Robert Martinez’s boys continue their excellent campaign.
Former boss David Moyes got a less than hospitable welcome from the home fans on his return to the club he’d managed for over a decade up until last summer. Moyes’ United’ side were sloppy from the get go and found themselves 2-0 at half time. They never recovered.
First Phil Jones inexplicably handled a Romelu Lukaku shot to give away a penalty, which Man United’s summer transfer target Leighton Baines dispatched with ease. Then just before the break an incisive attack down the right hand side — United had a torrid time against Seamus Coleman down that flank all game long — saw Coleman play in Kevin Mirallas to finish superbly across goal.
United offered little going forward with former Evertonian Wayne Rooney cutting a frustrated figure, as Moyes’ men put in yet another tepid display in a season to forget.
With the win Everton keep the heat on Arsenal in fourth place as the Toffees sit one point and one place behind them in fifth on 69 points, while United stay in seventh as any hopes they had of miraculous top four finish are now officially over.
An even start at Goodison Park saw Everton flying into tackles, as the Blues aimed to go to within one point of Arsenal. The first real chance of the match arrived after eight minutes as Coleman’s right wing cross was only partially cleared by Chris Smalling to the onrushing Ross Barkley, but the Everton youngster skewed his shot horribly over.
Everything that was good about Everton came down their right flank in the early exchanges, as Coleman bombed on to support Mirallas who both ganged up on Alexander Buttner at left back for United. The Red Devils’ narrow midfielders weren’t tracking back, as both Nani and Shinji Kagawa were nonexistent defensively. Soon after, another Everton foray down the right found Steven Naismith in the box who teed up Romelu Lukaku but his powerful shot was blocked square in the face by Phil Jones who didn’t flinch.
A strong call for a penalty then arrived in the 19th minute, as another Coleman cross found Naismith who steered a volley goalwards but his shot struck Jonny Evans in the arm. Referee Mark Clattenburg waved away shouts from the home crowd, as United seemed to have got away with an early scare. In the 21st minute Naismith was in the thick of things again, as the Scotsman was first to a knockdown from Lukaku but rushed his effort and volleyed way over the bar when he had time to take a touch, then shoot.
Moments later Everton were ahead, as another rapid counter-attack saw Naismith set up Lukaku who sent a curling shot towards the bottom corner that Phil Jones clearly handled, after slipping on the greasy Goodison surface. Baines stepped up to send David de Gea the wrong way, as the man Moyes tried to sign over the summer came back to haunt him. United showed little in the first half, as Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa combined masterfully on a few occasions, but Everton’s exuberant defense closed them down before any harm was done. Everton went in 2-0 up at half time thanks to counter-attack down — you guessed it — their right hand side, that saw Coleman play in Mirallas to rifle into the bottom corner.
At half time Antolin Alcaraz replaced Sylvain Distin at center back and the Paraguayan defender was called into immediate action as Rooney wriggled free of two challenges but Alcaraz made a superb last-ditch tackle to deny the former Everton forward. Moments later Kagawa had a long-range drive comfortably saved by Tim Howard, as United started the second half well.
United tried to prod and probe their way back into the game, with Moyes chucking on Javier Hernandez and Antonio Valencia with 30 minutes to go try and salvage something from the game. Instead the home side looked dangerous every time they went forward, as Barkley’s marauding runs through the center were causing all kinds of problems with Lukaku having a powerful shot well saved by De Gea.
Late on Naismith should’ve grabbed a third for Everton, as Mirallas’ right wing cross found the Scotsman unmarked on the penalty spot but he lashed his volley over the bar in the 75th minute. Naismith was thwarted again in the 80th minute, as a break from the Toffees saw De Gea tip his shot wide.
Despite late United pressure, which saw Howard save Rooney’s effort from point-blank range, Everton held on to record a memorable victory and heap more misery on Moyes.
Everton – Howard, Baines, Distin (Alcaraz, 45′), Stones, Coleman, McCarthy, Barry, Mirallas (McGeady, 90′), Barkley (Osman, 69′), Naismith, Lukaku.
Goals: Baines (28′), Mirallas (43′)
Manchester United – De Gea, Jones, Smalling, Evans (Hernandez, 61′), Büttner, Carrick, Fletcher, Nani (Valencia, 61′), Kagawa (Welbeck, 74′), Mata, Rooney.