Tuesday 2 January 2018 07:06, UK
Sublime strikes from Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard ensured Manchester United returned to winning ways with a 2-0 victory at Everton.
After United's 2017 came to a close with three successive draws, it looked as though a familiar tale was brewing after a sluggish first half at Goodison Park.
However, United upped the ante after the break, with Martial curling in a beauty from the edge of the area in the 57th minute before Lingard scored in similar fashion with nine minutes remaining.
Captain Paul Pogba provided the assist for both goals, and it was his man-of-the-match display that helped lift United back into second place in the Premier League table, 12 points behind leaders Manchester City.
Everton: Pickford (6), Martina (6), Keane (6), Williams (6), Holgate (6), Schneiderlin (5), Davies (6), Bolasie (6), Rooney (5), Vlasic (5), Niasse (5)
Subs: Lennon (6), McCarthy (6), Calvert-Lewin (n/a)
Man Utd: De Gea (6), Lindelof (6), Jones (6), Rojo (6), Shaw (7), Matic (7), Herrera (6), Pogba (8), Mata (7), Lingard (8), Martial (7)
Subs: Rashford (6), Blind (n/a), Tuanzebe (n/a)
Man of the match: Paul Pogba
A slow start to the game saw Mason Holgate send a header over before Ander Herrera opted to dummy a cross down the other end, but no United team-mate was behind him to meet Pogba's cut-back.
A vital interception from Marcos Rojo prevented Oumar Niasse from getting an attempt on target for Everton, while Toffees 'keeper Jordan Pickford could only tip Martial's cross away before Cuco Martina made the clearance.
United were on top towards the end of the first half, but Pogba and Herrera saw attempts from outside the area deflect wide.
Wayne Rooney came in to captain the Toffees against his former club - one of seven Everton changes. Meanwhile, Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial started for United, with Ashley Young (suspended), Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (both injured) out.
After the break, United found their groove, with Mata stinging the gloves of Pickford before his delightful effort from distance clipped the outside of the post.
A dominant spell eventually paid dividends for United when they scored from a counter-attack, with Pogba picking out Martial, who set himself on the edge of the area before curling his effort beyond Pickford.
United then survived a brief Everton onslaught - Niasse going closest with a header - before Lingard bent in the all-important second goal after ghosting past Michael Keane 20 yards out.
Pogba pulled the strings for United at Goodison Park. Playing on the left of a midfield three, the Frenchman often found himself out wide for the visitors, but his most-telling moments came from that side - most notably the two assists for Martial and Lingard.
"That's where he is at his best," Thierry Henry said in the studio after the match. "That was vintage Juve Pogba."
Sam Allardyce: "Defensively we have to be very solid. Today in the first half we were not too bad, but in the second half we decided we weren't going to bother closing United down.
"On the first goal, we were outside United's box and they go all the way - we back off, we back off, we back off, we back off, we back off into our box and onto the penalty spot with Martial on the ball, and he picks his head up and pops it into the top corner.
"You look and say, 'Well lads, if you're going to back off like that, then everyone can have a free shot and score against you'."
Jose Mourinho: "The boys deserved it. I keep saying our draws were not bad performances, they had situations that made it more difficult for us and we made our mistakes, especially in the matches against Leicester and Burnley, but the boys were fantastic, their attitude, commitment, pride, their effort, everything was really top class and on top of it we played very well.
"We were always in control. We moved the ball, we had lots of movement, we changed our profile because we didn't have [Romelu] Lukaku, we had to try to win a different way and I am really pleased with the points. Even without points I would be proud of what the boys did."
"What you have in that team is top quality - Pogba, Lingard, Mata, Martial, Rashford came off the bench. They created chances.
"I understand when Mourinho talks about the players that were missing, but, trouble? I don't think the word would be trouble with the players that I see here.
"Everton were in trouble, not United. I'm sure he [Mourinho] would love to have all the players around him to choose from. But you still have quality there."
Everton are in FA Cup action at Merseyside rivals Liverpool on Friday, while United host second-tier Derby County at Old Trafford on the same evening.