After slump during festive season, Manchester United looked in danger of dropping yet more points during the first half before two spectacular, long-range and much-needed goals coming from Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard after the break helped them a 2-0 victory over Everton.
It was Paul Pogba who made the difference, however, with a performance worth every penny of his £89m fee. United were lacking in any kind of fluency at first, just as they were in the three stalemates with Leicester City, Burnley and Southampton, but once their best player began to impose himself on proceedings, his sublime vision, intricate passing and intelligent movement brought life to a previously listless performance.
Everton came into this game hopeful of a result against a flawed, weakened and out-of-sorts United but had no answer to Pogba’s virtuoso display as Sam Allardyce fell to a second successive defeat, the second defeat of his tenure so far.
United were forced to change things up front after Romelu Lukaku’s head injury, sustained the goalless draw with Southampton, prevented him from making his first return to the blue part of Merseyside. Marcus Rashford was kept on the bench and Martial started as a lone central striker but in the opening stages, still there was no clear, coherent structure to United’s attacks.
This, combined with Everton’s own struggles for consistency in front of goal this season, made for a drab first half of half chances and few memorable moments.
The most entertainment the opening 45 minutes could muster came when Wayne Rooney took his first corner of the afternoon in front of United’s travelling support, who chanted his name as he approached. The home fans warmly applauded this sincere show of respect, then chortled as the away end serenaded their club’s all-time leading goalscorer with a chorus of ‘you Scouse bastard’.