Manchester United claimed a convincing 3-0 victory over Everton FC. With four changes to the Manchester United lineup, questions were being asked on the choice of the players. The team answered them with quick counter-attacking passes and strong defending to ensure a yet another David de Gea’s clean sheet.
The game, shadowed by the death of past Everton player-manager and club legend Howard Kendall, proved to be less of a challenge as expected for the Red Devils. Here are the five key talking points from the encounter:
5. Chris Smalling is the key to United’s defence:
The man behind the clean sheet today was not just David de Gea, along with him the English central defender Smalling also played a major role. He was a constant in the back line, often tracking back to prevent the long balls from Everton’s defence reaching Lukaku. He was also positioning himself perfectly in the hole of Everton’s attacking front to intercept many through balls which could have led to dangerous situations.
He has been showing his capability as a responsible defender since the start of the season and his inclusion is the only constant every game despite the regular switching of the other central defenders. His attitude can mean a lot for the team, especially in terms of confidence. The team would play much better up ahead, knowing that their back is secured.
4. Lukaku’s strength can rip apart defences:
All though Lukaku was very efficiently dealt by United’s defence-both Phil Jones and Smalling; it was not a piece of cake. His constant movement provided enough challenge to create spaces in the United defence, only not to be put to good use by the Merseyside team. His presence itself attracted 2-3 defenders inside the 6-yard box during set-pieces, making space for other players to have a go.
His speed often found him running past the United’s back line, almost to be 1v1 with the keeper only to be stopped at a last ditch tackle. Even that seemed to be herculean task as all of them had to resort to dirty tackles to stop the man. All though he couldn’t contribute directly in this game, he was one of the better players in a disraught Everton side today.
3. Mata-Herrera-Schweinsteiger trio is the way forward:
As much as one can say otherwise, the trio of Mata-Herrera-Schweinsteiger has provided more chances than any other combination for United. Playing Herrera at his natural attacking midfield position was the best choice Louis van Gaal could make, as the lad scored a goal and assisted one. He also played an essential role in controlling the tempo of the game along with providing some brilliant balls to Rooney up ahead.
Mata and Schweinsteiger combined very well with the team. When Mata played on the flanks, he often came inside to help Schweinsteiger to provide built-up play. The German, who generally plays a defensive role, played with a slightly attacking mindset today as the trio carried the game to victory as a force.
2. Martial can adapt himself to the wings well:
Martial has been put up ahead as the central striker in most of the games, playing Rooney behind him. But today, giving chance to Herrera at the number 10 position, allowed Rooney to step ahead. This meant Martial playing in the wings. While many understood and predicted him to be suited for the wings, on paper and on-pitch are often two different stories.
Pleasantly, it was not the case for Martial. His speed and his dribbling made it almost seem natural for the Frenchman to be playing on the wings. While running on the flanks, he provided good crosses into the box, at times even cutting in to try his own attempt at goal. His game, very similar to the traditional SAF-era winger’s style of play, proves him to be versatile- a skill much required in modern day football.
1. Everton without Baines seems incomplete:
Everton lacked the services of Leighton Baines very acutely today. The game lacked a cohesiveness which he as the captain often ensured. The team looked to be working on broken passes, despite their relentless attempts to create chances.
Even otherwise, the game lacked the precision of Baines as a full back. The tactical awareness was missing in the Everton side. Traore at the front lacked options as there never used to be any support for him up ahead. With Baines in the game and Traore’s aerial accuracy, his accurate crosses could have changed the result. Everton, sure would be hoping the fullback has a speedy recovery.