On a day when the club honoured Sir Bobby Charlton by renaming the South Stand, United toiled to beat an Everton side that was themselves no better than average.
After the international break, it was good to see Van Gaal stick with the same eleven that had beaten City in the derby in the last game. A lovely tribute was paid to a real United legend before the game, where fans all around the ground held flags up in his honour and the new name for The Sir Bobby Charlton Stand was unveiled.
The less said about the first half the better as both sides seemed to lack ideas and they hardly created anything. The second half was slightly better and United went ahead from a wonderful move that started from Schneiderlin’s long field pass to Juan Mata and finished by Anthony Martial via another two of the youngsters in the team, Marcus Rashford and Timothy Fosu-Mensah.
Everton created a few good chances of their own, but thankfully the best ones fell to Phil Jagielka rather than someone like Lukaku. United got a little better once Herrera came on with half an hour to go as they had more attacking intent even if they never looked very comfortable. When the final whistle went, everyone seemed relieved as another hard-fought three points were won, and though the 75,000 fans at Old Trafford won’t be remembering much about the match itself in years to come, they can say that they were there when Sir Bobby had a stand named after him.
Some points taken from this game… It was excellent to see Daley Blind back to his best again in a position that’s not even his. In a man of the match performance, he made sure Lukaku was no threat alongside ‘Mike’ Smalling, and was in the right position whenever needed; Fosu-Mensah had a brilliant second half after replacing an out of sorts Marcos Rojo at half-time, and United’s defence looked a lot stronger with him in the side; Schneiderlin was once again solid in midfield, and went about doing a very good job without any fuss.
As for the newly named ‘Sir Bobby Charlton Stand’, it was great to honour one of United’s best ever players in such a way, and better do it now while he is still the club’s goal scoring record holder than maybe after his record is broken, as it might then look like it’s a bit of a consolation for someone who has given so much of his life to the club we support.
In other Premier League games, Arsenal beat ‘on-holiday’ Watford 4-0 to consolidate third place in the table; Spurs could only draw 1-1 at Klopp’s L’pool and saw the gap to the top widen to seven points after Leicester won 1-0 at home to Southampton; Manchester City bounced back from the derby defeat by winning 4-0 at ‘already on the beach’ Bournemouth; West Ham dropped two points as they drew 2-2 at home to Crystal Palace; Stoke and Swansea played out another 2-2 draw; Sunderland couldn’t find a way past West Brom in a game that finished goalless; Norwich beat Newcastle 3-2 in a direct relegation clash; and Chelsea beat a managerless and incompetent Aston Villa side 4-0 to stay cosily in mid-table.
This all means that United are back up to fifth, just one point behind City in the fight to win Arsenal’s fourth place trophy, and with seven games to go, we have a good chance of still finishing in the top four (though my prediction of getting into the top three is looking farther away).
The Champions League continued this week, with England’s remaining representatives drawing 2-2 against PSG in France. Considering they are two of the richest clubs in the world, some of the defending from both sides was comical, and you have to wonder how both teams haven’t got better defenders with the money they can afford to pay.
In other football news, Chelsea have confirmed something we knew for a couple of months by appointing Antonio Conte as their manager from next season. Though they’ll have no Champions League football to look forward to at Stamford Bridge, they will probably be back fighting for top honours sooner rather than later with the Italian in charge.
The Sunday Times reported that a Dr.Mark Bonar had ‘treated’ around 150 athletes with banned substances, including past and present Premier League footballers. While it’s hard to believe that football and the Premier League are untainted with all the money involved, it might be a case that this ‘doctor’, who is an unregistered GP is trying to make a name for himself by throwing mud and hoping some of it sticks.
Also in the news is new FIFA president Gianni Infantino, whose name has appeared in the Panama Papers regarding TV rights sold while he was Michel Platini’s right hand man at UEFA. While he denies any wrongdoing, the Swiss police have seized information about a contract signed by UEFA’s then general secretary. Meanwhile, Juan Pedro Damiani, a FIFA ethics committee official has resigned after being named in the papers, showing that there’s still a lot of work to be done before FIFA offices are cleaned out properly from corrupted officials (If it ever happens).
Another week, another football legend death is announced, this time Cesare Maldini. While many youngsters will know much more about his son Paolo, many of us remember him winning three European U/21 championships as Italy manager to add to the many honours he had won as a player and manager at AC Milan, and also guiding Paraguay to the last sixteen in the 2002 World Cup. May he rest in peace.
Back to United, they now play two games in London in the next week. On Sunday they face Tottenham in the Premier League (4pm UK time), and then on Wednesday they’re back in the capital to play West Ham in the FA Cup quarter-final replay (7pm UK time). We will be hoping that the team comes back to Manchester with two more important wins under their belts… COME ON UNITED!!!