Man Utd beat Everton 3-1 in the FA Cup fixture at Old Trafford thanks to goals from Antony and Marcus Rashford.
Erik ten Hag does not do weakened teams and Manchester United’s FA Cup XI was stronger than their Premier League line-up against Bournemouth in midweek.
A terrific cup tie, amplified by nearly 10,000 hardcore Everton matchgoers at Old Trafford, confirmed how meaningful the competition is to United’s incumbent manager and the strained Frank Lampard. It is a spectacle the sons of Wayne Rooney and Darren Fletcher, sat together in the directors’ box, were engrossed by.
The jubilation in the old Scoreboard End when Dominic Calvert-Lewin appeared to have equalised, and the delight of United fans at the retrospective realisation it was offside, was a cup atmosphere from a bygone age. United fans revelled in the schadenfreude as smoke from a blue flare drifted into the night sky.
Back in Manchester eight days on from a creditable draw at City, Everton were similarly obdurate and determined to demonstrate their 4-1 home trouncing by Brighton was an aberration. The presence of 9,000 Scousers was an additional incentive.
Conor Coady, Merseyside-born and bred at the Liverpool academy, responded to a chorus of ‘you Scouse b—–d’ from the Stretford End by equalising. His own goal to restore United’s lead in the 52nd minute was greeted with the same chant.
“We’re the famous Man United and we’re going to Wemberlee,” sang the United supporters. They are now “on the march with Ten Hag’s army”, victorious in their last seven games. The soundtrack eventually added Que Sera Sera.
You’re getting sacked in the morning” was aired more than once, although Lampard can wake up with ease. Everton wreduced United to a back three and their players could approach the away-dayers safely. United are yet to take a team to the cleaners.
Marcus Rashford’s doggedness decided the duel, with United’s first two goals coming from his industrious wing play. Of all the five substitutions Ten Hag made, Rashford was not among them for United cannot do without him at this moment. Rashford stepped up for the first penalty of the post-Ronaldo era and converted, his fifth goal in as many matches.
Everton’s following was initially prepared to turn against certain players and United’s could not conceal their frustration with the fitful Antony amid his reluctance to reintroduce his right foot to the ball. On the other flank, Rashford was more dependable.
Everton are the fourth of the Premier League’s bottom six sides to have played United since the World Cup and it patently bothers Ten Hag his side lack that ruthlessness that would ease their workload in a taxing January. Grit primarily prevails over guile.
Against his whipping boys, Anthony Martial did not start as he intended. Having creditably retained the ball in the breakaway for Antony’s opening goal, he faded and this was additional proof that when Martial has a consistent run of games he is an inconsistent frontman. On his seventh consecutive start, the Frenchman was substituted for the seventh time.
Ten Hag is stung by the mass rotation of seven changes he opted for in the opening Europa League group game against Real Sociedad, a defeat that ultimately resulted in a runners-up finish and a knockout play-off draw with Barcelona next month. That was a lesson learnt.
After Bournemouth failed to take up their allocation, 9,000 Evertonians occupied the second tier of the east stand and half of the first tier. Always well represented on the road, Evertonians have seldom been as loud, their anger with the club’s board more effective than the stadium’s acoustics.
They were quietened as early as the fourth minute. Antony’s last United goal was at Goodison Park and he anticipated Rashford’s cross as expertly as a striker, checking his run to stay well onside amid the dithering defending from Vitaliy Mykolenko. Most surprising of all was Antony tapped in with his right boot.
David de Gea’s doziness scuppered what promised to be a straightforward evening when he anticipated a goal kick yet Neal Maupay’s cross-cum-shot squirmed through the unprepared ‘keeper’s legs. Coady pounced. The broadcasters failed to home in on Jack Butland, a spectator in the directors’ box.
To make matters worse for De Gea, Roy Keane was the on-site pundit. “It looks like he’s had a few drinks,” Keane quipped. Keane had gone easy on De Gea, having once advised United players to fight with him over an error.
De Gea’s distribution suddenly became problematic and Ten Hag expressed his dissatisfaction with one aimless punt. De Gea did recover to foil Seamus Coleman just past the hour but also needlessly collided with Diogo Dalot 20 yards from his goal line.
Demarai Gray, a scorer at Old Trafford with Leicester, had fired a warning when he struck the upright and the ball rebounded off De Gea into the side netting. Ten Hag was disconcerted enough by the 14th-minute equaliser to summon Bruno Fernandes to the technical area and it was Gray who fired the ball in for Calvert-Lewin to turn in for his illegitimate goal.
Ten Hag sent on Lisandro Martinez and Harry Maguire to preserve United’s advantage after Coady scored again at the Stretford End but for the wrong team. Martinez was mobbed by De Gea and Raphael Varane for earning a goal kick. That conceded territory and beckoned Everton forward.
It didn’t weaken United, at least.