James McCarthy on target as Everton torment Manchester United

Roberto Martínez’s improving side produce biggest win over United since 1992

Everton midfielder James McCarthy scores past Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea during the Premier League match at Goodison Park. Photo:  Paul Ellis/AFP

Everton midfielder James McCarthy scores past Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea during the Premier League match at Goodison Park. Photo: Paul Ellis/AFP

 

Everton 3 Manchester United 0

The Grim Reaper did not appear beside the visitors’ bench as he did for David Moyes’s final game as Manchester United manager 12 months ago but Louis van Gaal suffered his own torment at Goodison Park. United’s hold on an automatic place in next season’s Champions League weakened as Everton cut a swathe through their weak defence.

Roberto Martínez’s side achieved their best result of a difficult but belatedly improving campaign, producing Everton’s biggest win over United since 1992, as in-form opponents were comfortably subdued on Merseyside.

James McCarthy, John Stones and the substitute Kevin Mirallas struck the goals that inflicted a first league defeat by a three-goal margin on Van Gaal as United manager.

Van Gaal may not have to fear for his position as Moyes did here last April but there were striking parallels on the pitch between Everton’s latest home win over United and last season. Martínez’s team sat deep and were content for United to dominate possession, a 62 per cent share in the first half, yet were the more incisive, clinical team when they had the ball. A two-goal interval lead was also identical to Moyes’s final game as United manager.

Everton were sharp and aggressive from the opening whistle with McCarthy, looking leaner and quicker than he did upon his return from a series of hamstring injuries, and Ross Barkley to the fore. Martínez’s decision to recall Leon Osman on the left of midfield with instruction to track Juan Mata’s runs inside was another factor in the visitors’ struggle to open up their hosts. An early breakthrough suited the Everton approach to perfection.

Second Captains

Only five minutes had elapsed when Gareth Barry cleared a United corner and allowed his fellow central midfielder to lead a devastating counter-attack.

McCarthy sent Séamus Coleman away down the right – a potent outlet for Everton all afternoon – and though Paddy McNair prevented the full back’s cross from reaching Romelu Lukaku his touch fell invitingly to the Republic of Ireland international. McCarthy took the only option available to him, surging through the weakest of challenges from McNair and Daley Blind inside the area, before tucking a neat finish inside David de Gea’s far corner.

United should have been level within two minutes only for Marouane Fellaini to squander a gilt-edged chance against his former club. In contrast to a frosty return to Goodison 12 months ago, the Belgium midfielder was afforded a warm reception from his old supporters at kick-off. Their appreciation increased on seven minutes when Fellaini blazed over from 18 yards having dispossessed Barry as the midfielder attempted to control a wild pass out of defence from Stones.

Fellaini has been instrumental in United’s rise into the Champions League places but faded badly here after collecting an early booking and was replaced by Radamel Falcao at half-time. The midfielder might have departed earlier had the referee Andre Marriner spotted a deliberate handball from Fellaini as he lay on the ground claiming a foul from behind by Barry.

His and United’s day deteriorated regardless. Everton’s third telling break down their right flank resulted in Chris Smalling conceding a corner from another Coleman delivery. United cleared Leighton Baines’s first driven cross to the near post, did the same with his second but switched off at the third corner from the England left back.

Stones stole a march on the dawdling Antonio Valencia and steered an unstoppable header beyond De Gea and over Ashley Young on the goalline, for his first Everton goal.

The pattern remained unchanged despite the introduction of Falcao and Ángel Di María in the second half. Tim Howard prevented Wayne Rooney hauling United back in the game from close range and saved comfortably from a Falcao header but, for all their control of possession, the visitors posed little threat. And they were undone by their interpretation of the offside law as Everton extended their lead with 16 minutes remaining.

Lukaku stopped when Barkley’s chipped pass forwards found the centre forward in a clear offside position. United’s defence paused too, but not onside substitute Mirallas who sprinted onto the loose ball and converted a confident finish inside De Gea’s near post. Mirallas went close to his second and Everton’s fourth with a powerful drive from 25 yards but the United keeper saved well.

(Guardian service)

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