Manchester United capitalised on a weekend which saw four members of the ‘Big Six’ drop points as they held on to a 4-0 win over Everton thanks to a thunderous effort from Antonio Valencia and a late treble from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Romelu Lukaku and Romelu Lukaku.
The game was also the return to Old Trafford of Wayne Rooney while Lukaku also faced his old side – and both men were guilty of missing chances to punish their former employers before the latter struck.
Here are five things we learned from the game…
Manchester United vs Everton player ratings
Left-back still an issue
Another week, another name filling the left-back position on Jose Mourinho’s teamsheet. We’ve had Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian so far, with Luke Shaw surely set to feature there when he is back from injury too, and on Sunday it was the turn of Ashley Young.
He did well, especially attackingly, but a 32-year-old winger is not going to be the answer to United’s left-back conundrum. Mourinho clearly does not rate Shaw and has never fully trusted him in the 15 months he has been at Old Trafford. It was a desire but not a priority in the summer but be sure a full-back will be top of the Portuguese’s wishlist come January and the end of the season.
Lukaku must improve
Manchester United were guilty of throwing away too many points against smaller teams at home last season on the way to accumulating 15 draws – and part of that problem was the number of chances missed. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was perhaps the one most guilty of this wastefulness but in Romelu Lukaku United looked to have signed a player who thrives on bullying these types of teams.
However, he, like Ibrahimovic, and in spite of the seven goals he has scored already (after his strike against Everton), is incredibly wasteful in from of goal. He missed a fine chance to double United’s lead in the first half against his former team and takes more than one chance to find the back of the net. He cost United three points against Stoke with a miss and it could turn into another season of the same of story unless he becomes more efficient in the tight games where his chances aren’t as regular as they are in other matches.
Rooney’s Old Trafford return began with cheers from the United fans when he got off the team coach and could have ended with a goal or two, as he offered the only real attacking threat for Everton. He had the visitor’s only real chance of the first half when he dragged his right-footed shot wide of David De Gea’s right-hand post before forcing a fine stop from the Spaniard with his feet in the second.
He is not the answer to Everton’s goalscoring problems but he still has plenty to offer and exploited the space well in deeper areas when the game became more stretched. He didn’t quite do enough to justify a shock big-money move back to United in January but he certainly brushed off any suggestions his move to Goodison is the start of his career winding down.
Why either Martial OR Rashford?
Mourinho’s swaying between either Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford continued against Everton with the duo carrying on with their job-share on the left wing. But is Mourinho’s naturally defensive-minded tactics stunting the attack by not playing them together? It would seem so, when he decided to swap the Englishman with Jesse Lingard on the hour mark.
In Juan Mata and Mkhitaryan, United have two No 10s on the pitch but one of these could be sacrificed in order to inject the added pace in the final third. Too often an attack was slowed when Mata stopped and looked for a pass in places where Martial would have his head down and at full speed. When will Mourinho trust the two speedsters either side of Lukaku? That will be when United will truly be a real constant danger.
Everton’s attack lacks pace and direction
If United could do with some added pace then Everton are desperate for it. Other than Sandro, none of Ronald Koeman’s attackers possess anything other than the threat of an intricate pass or a strike from long range. Kevin Mirallas has that running but goes missing too often to be a regular option while Dominic Calvert-Lewin is still raw.
There is also the absence of a distinct No 9, a central striker. They had that in Lukaku last season but Koeman has failed to replace him and as much as Rooney tries, but he drops deep and is not naturally inclined to hold that position. It is hardly a surprise that in the four games prior to this one, Everton had managed only seven shots on target, and it wasn’t until after half-time before they added to that tally.