Manchester United maintain top-four push with win over Everton
Anthony Martial’s first Premier League goal of 2023 wrapped up a comfortable Manchester United victory against Everton but Marcus Rashford’s injury threatens to take the sheen off this win.
A mixture of poor finishing, questionable decision-making and string of Jordan Pickford saves prevented Sean Dyche’s visitors from being on the end of a first-half hiding at Old Trafford.
United had an eye-watering 21 shots in a one-sided opening period but Scott McTominay was the only player to find the net, and that was after Everton’s Ellis Simms wasted a glorious chance at the other end.
The Toffees improved after the break but Erik ten Hag’s men remained in control, with substitute Martial completing a 2-0 win as Rashford capitalised on a Seamus Coleman error.
The France international’s first Premier League goal since December came on his third substitute appearance after spending two months of this injury-hit campaign out with a hip complaint.
Martial’s return may have come at just the right time given the concerning sight of Rashford pulling up holding his groin late on, before limping heavily around the pitch and down the tunnel.
Everton were a pale imitation of the side that fought for a 1-1 draw against Tottenham on Monday and were on the backfoot from the outset on Saturday lunchtime.
Marcel Sabitzer saw an early shot deflected wide before Rashford was put through on goal, only to shoot straight at Pickford under pressure from James Tarkowski.
Rashford was then frustrated by an excellent recovery tackle by Alex Iwobi, with the resulting corner so nearly bringing about a 12th-minute opener.
Antony sent a curling, bobbling effort off the post and Aaron Wan-Bissaka snatched at the rebound, inexplicably dragging across the face of the empty goal.
That was a glorious chance, so too was Everton’s in the 19th minute.
Simms collected a return ball from Coleman, dropped a shoulder and then mishit a shot that trundled wide from close range.
That was as good as it got for the Toffees as United continued to unleash a barrage of attacks.
Sabitzer stung the palms of Pickford after great skill by the lively Jadon Sancho, while Antony was failing to make the most of United’s threat from balls over the top.
First Bruno Fernandes put him behind only to see a shot saved when Rashford was looking for a pass, then David De Gea put him behind only for shaky Ben Godfrey to get back to deny him.
The theme of open spaces and United missed chances continued as Everton threw bodies in front of a couple of Rashford shots before Fernandes struck over.
But the 36th minute finally brought a breakthrough.
Rashford’s repeated attempts to find a gap were stopped so he laid off to Sancho, who smartly found McTominay’s run and the midfielder lashed past Pickford at his near post.
Pickford palmed away Antony’s latest effort in stoppage time after again getting behind Godfrey – a player withdrawn for Vitaliy Mykolenko at the break.
United’s intensity dipped after the opening period’s one-way traffic and Ten Hag turned to Martial off the bench in place of Antony in the 60th minute to kickstart their attack.
Everton made a pair of midfield changes at the same point and were beginning to ask more questions of the hosts, with Simms, Iwobi and James Garner seeing attempts blocked in quick succession.
That mini-period woke the hosts up, with Fernandes seeing a header saved from Sabitzer’s superb clipped cross before Wan-Bissaka was denied from the resulting corner.
Rashford fizzed over from 25 yards before Coleman’s inability to deal with a raking Lisandro Martinez ball out from the back ended the contest. Rashford lapped up the loose ball and squared for Martial to beat Pickford.
There was a huge roar then, so too when Christian Eriksen came on for his first appearance since sustaining a nasty ankle injury in January.
But as two United players return, another picked up an injury.
Rashford pulled up and held his groin, immediately indicating to the bench he was hurt. He limped off round the pitch and was consoled by Ten Hag.
United had further chances to add more, mainly through man of the match Fernandes, but settled for a simple win and clean sheet.