Jose Mourinho can breathe a sigh of relief, as Manchester United were able to defeat Everton 2-1 at Old Trafford.
A penalty from Paul Pogba opened the scoring for the Red Devils, which was doubled by Anthony Martial’s spectacular goal. United did give away a penalty in the second-half, which was converted neatly by Gylfi Sigurdsson.
However, at the end, the three points were firmly secured by the home side, and the 8th spot is temporarily theirs for the taking, still a solid 9 points off from leaders Liverpool.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the Theatre of Dreams:
1. Romelu Lukaku Benched – A Wise Decision?
Jose Mourinho finally made a radical change to his starting lineup, and the struggling Lukaku was left on the bench at the start of the game.
Mourinho hoped that the Belgian striker, who has been undergoing a dreadful goal-drought and has found the net only 4 times this season, would do well from the break.
Rashford was decent as a replacement, although the youngster still looked far from likely to become the first-choice number 9 on a regular basis. Lukaku’s eventual substitution into the match didn’t yield much, and on a few occasions, he seemed to continue his woes, although the short period of time can’t be fairly judged.
2. Pogba’s Penalty – A Whirlwind of Emotions
Despite holding a clear attacking edge, United’s lead came through a penalty.
The foul on Martial was a highly contentious one, with Everton players arguing that Marital practically ran into the tackle. The angle at which his leg was splayed does leave room for questions, although Martial has a natural tendency to be shifty when on the attack.
When the actual spot-kick occurred, Pogba’s great penalty-taking knack was pitched against Pickford’s equally remarkable record for defending them. Sure enough, the Toffees’ goalkeeper did save the Frenchman’s kick, but couldn’t clear the ball enough to stop the midfielder from netting the rebound.
It was a decisive move from Pogba, and underlined his dominant stance throughout the game, which included providing the assist for Martial’s winner, and firmly taking home the Man of the Match acclaim.
3. Attacking Style Employed
Jose Mourinho didn’t wait till the second half today to go all guns blazing. Right from kick-off, the Red Devils were out there to impress Old Trafford, and Fred and Pogba moved the ball ahead quite effectively, with Martial almost constantly on the attack, and Mata providing key runs and passes into the box.
If all goes well, this game ought to be viewed as the clinical moment when Mourinho was able to fully deploy his shift to a more attacking form of play, which, given his lack of defensive brilliance through mediocre centre-backs, is perhaps the best alternative he’s got.
4. Marvelous Martial
Mourinho recently commented that he hopes Martial can replicate the ‘Luke Shaw’ process and win back a regular spot in United’s starting lineup.
Sure enough, the French forward found himself on the scoresheet yet again, bringing his recent Premier League tally to a fruitful 4 goals in 3 games.
This top-notch form has been accompanied by simply beautiful goals, and United’s October Goal of the Month list will be populated by stunner after stunner from the trusty feet of Martial.
Surely by now, the youngster has instilled enough confidence in Mourinho to merit a regular start and maintain his attacking presence.
5. Everton Showed Real Intent
While functioning morosely for most of the game, the penalty-goal in the 77th minute seemed to really put things back in perspective for the Toffees.
Their immediate substitutions really got the ball rolling, and towards the announcement of the 6 minutes of added time, Old Trafford seemed to actually hold its breath, as a repeat of last week’s debacle at Chelsea, where another 2-1 lead was thrown away by United, seemed like a possibility.
However, the home side held its cool quite well, and Everton will still take back some positives from the game, as it still holds afloat its spot in the top half of the table, but not by much.