Wayne Rooney scores his goal at Goodison since 2007 as United ran out 3-0 winners over Everton
Whenever one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams lost heavily the fixture before, you knew only too well that there would be a positive reaction in the next game. His successor Louis van Gaal was absolutely delighted with the way in which his Manchester United went about their business at Goodison Park against Everton.
Morgan Schneiderlin, who was dropped two weeks ago for the clash against Arsenal, opened the scoring before Ander Herrera headed home United’s second following a quite brilliant cross from Marcos Rojo on the lefthand side. Wayne Rooney, who first played against his hometown club ten years ago in the 2004/05 season – which United lost 1-0, finished off the scoring having latched onto a through ball by Herrera after Phil Jagielka gave the ball away; his first at Everton since 2007. United were different class and set down a marker ahead of the derby next Sunday at Old Trafford.
Better shape. Better ball retention, Better performance
It was a complete contrast to the shadow chasing that occurred for the first twenty minutes at The Emirates two Sundays ago. The inclusion of Morgan Schneiderlin suggested that Louis van Gaal had learnt his lesson after allowing Mesut Ozil aches of space to operate in a fortnight before. Ross Barkley had been in fine form for Everton and England and it was essential that he was marshalled by Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger, in the centre of the park. Schneiderlin was exceptional all game and went about his business in a cool and composed manner. The Frenchman is a must to start the game against Manchester City next week.
I am very happy with the response of my players and I am very proud of the performance. I think it was an excellent performance and maybe it is the start of many, many victories.”
– Louis van Gaal
Ander Herrera, deployed as the more attacking central midfielder was excellent again and provided support through his work rate and passing to Rooney, who was up top on his own. His perfectly placed header helped United into a two goal lead. The cross from Marcos Rojo, who has played his best football for United at centre half, was exceptional. The left footed cross was perfectly weighted to land on the head of the galloping Spaniard. The chance only came about through the turn and swivel of Anthony Martial, who was operating in a wide left formation to nullify the attacking threat of Seamus Coleman, who was fouled in the process – but was rewarded for his efforts with a goal of some class.
Martial continues to impress in these very early days of his United career. He has been excellent in front of goal, with two cool finishes against Southampton last month and of course, that unbelievable debut goal against Liverpool. He hugged the touchline all day and his dazzling pacy runs are exciting to watch – he really is a great talent who will do wonders at United. His inclusion was at the expense of Memphis Depay, who has asked Ryan Giggs for advice following his mixed start to the season. Depay has been poor in recent fixtures and was rightfully dropped for the game.
Except for a period in the second half, which required David De Gea to make two fine saves to deny Everton, United controlled and dominated proceedings at a ground that has been notoriously difficult in recent seasons. The win will give United confidence going into the derby, which saw United run out 4-2 winners last April. United fans will be buoyant that Sergio Aguerro will miss the match through a hamstring injury, which is likely to keep the Argentine – so often the thorn in United’s side – out of action for some weeks.
United hadn’t scored a goal at Goodison since the 2011/12 1-0 victory and the previous three fixtures have all ended in defeat. Louis van Gaal said that he was very proud of his players and it was one of their “best matches” under his leadership at United.
Chris Smalling is the best English centre half at the moment
When Chris Smalling signed for United back in 2010, United fans were excited at the possibility of watching this unknown defender, who was also being chased by Arsenal, develop into a top centre half under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson. Smalling would also have the experience of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand to learn from in his early days at the club. In the five seasons that proceeded from his debut 2010/11 season, the jury was very much still out on the development of Smalling.
This season he has been, arguably, United’s best player and was up against a man mountain in Romelu Lukaku at Goodison on Saturday. He was strong and aggressive in his marking of the Belgian striker. His positioning has also been top class alongside a different centre back in Phil Jones, who was preferred to Daley Blind following the Netherlands elimination from the European Championships qualifying. Blind would also have struggled, as he did at times against Graziano Pelle when United ran out 3-2 winners against Southampton, with the physicality of Lukaku – who got little joy all afternoon.
Smalling still needs to work on his passing range, but he is continuing to step up to the high standards for centre halves that United fans have been accustomed to over the years. From Martin Buchan to Paul McGrath to Jaap Stam to Nemanja Vidic – reds are used to watching top quality defenders strut their stuff. Smalling has a long way to go to be anywhere close to being mentioned in the same breath of players who have lifted the FA Cup, the League title and the European Cup for the club over the years – but United’s number 12 hasn’t put a foot wrong so far this season and will need to continue his good work when he comes up against a City forward line consisting of Wilfried Bony, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.