The unusual Sunday noon kick off time did not do anything to lessen the atmosphere at Old Trafford as the Reds ran out 2-1 winners against the Toffees.
Whilst the experts have not predicted United to win the league, one thing that is becoming more predictable is the manner in which the performances have enthused fans, a stark contrast to last season’s cautious approach.
The absence of Captain Wayne Rooney due to suspension meant a start in his favoured position for Juan Mata, and another opportunity to show the manager of his undoubted qualities.
The opening exchanges saw United on top, with Everton offering little attacking threat, largely thanks to the way youngster Patrick McNair handled the threat of the dangerous Romelu Lukaku. McNair’s performance was that of a regular centre half, who has been playing in the first team for several seasons, such was his commanding display. In the same way that Tyler Blackett has impressed, McNair has done so too, leaving some critics of United’s recent transfer policy to be reminded that youth players are given more of a chance at United than at many of their rivals.
It was the ever impressive Angel di Maria who opened the scoring close to the half hour mark as he was teed up by Mata to send his shot rifling past ex Red Tim Howard. Worth noting Daley Blind’s contribution for the goal, as it was his simple yet effective pass to Rafael that allowed the full back to run into space and cross the ball into the opposition box. Not only has di Maria’s obvious qualities impressed me, yes he’s carried the main threat to the opposition, but he has also adapted well to the physical side of the game that many others have struggled with.
Just as injury time in the first half had seemed to come to an end, Luke Shaw was harshly adjudged to have fouled Tony Hibbert, giving away a penalty, which presented Leighton Baines the opportunity to draw his side level. You wouldn’t normally back against Baines dispatching the penalty, but David De Gea pulled off a great save to prevent the equaliser.
When Everton finally equalised ten minutes into the second half, it came from a Baines cross, which found Naismith unmarked to finish with his head from close range.
Just as the United defence looked shaky, it took just seven minutes for the Reds to regain the lead through Radamel Falcao, who re-directed di Maria’s shot which was going wide. It was just what the Colombian striker needed, to open his goal scoring account and be rewarded for his recent good performances, and will hope that the flood gates open for his usual goal scoring exploits that he has enjoyed throughout his career.
Luke Shaw gave a solid performance during the afternoon offering the defence a more balanced feel, was to be replaced after an injury by Blackett. Goal scorer Falcao was also replaced minutes later as James Wilson became the thirtieth player to have made an appearance for United this season.
Moments before the end of the ninety minutes, De Gea pulled off a great save from a Leon Osman shot that looked destined to nestle the back of the net. As the fourth official put his board up showing four additional minutes, Everton pressed for an equaliser, with Wilson tripping up Baines earning the youngster a yellow card.
With the ball falling to Gareth Barry, his shot was well blocked by Blackett who threw himself at the shot, the ball then came to Bryan Oviedo, whose shot looked destined to finally bring the Toffees an equaliser. Not for the first time in the game, De Gea pulled off a flying save (possibly the best of the afternoon) with his right hand to ensure that United ended the afternoon with three points.
Heading towards another international break, it was vital that United did not lose any more ground on their rivals, and it is a pity that the break has come at a time when momentum has been gathering with improved performances from the Reds.
Plenty of positives to come out of the game, including another exciting performance from the dangerous di Maria, a first goal for Falcao, solid displays from McNair and Blind and of course, a man of the match performance from David De Gea.