De Gea and Di Maria give Man United edge over Everton
Louis van Gaal will no doubt be relieved to have finally tasted back to back Premier League victories, with Manchester United now temporarily propelled into a top four spot.
The Red Devils, however, did make hard work of their 2-1 win, dropping deep and allowing visitors Everton to peg them back in the final minutes. The Toffees were unlucky not to pinch a point, but superb stopper David De Gea pulled off a series of top class saves to deny Roberto Martinez’s Merseyside men.
Angel Di Maria was, once again, the star outfield player at Old Trafford, and continues to make his eye-watering fee look like a bargain.
After showcasing his skills with a wonderful back heel flick, the Argentina attacker put United ahead in the first half, slotting home from a precise Juan Mata pass, after Rafael’s probing cross found the Spaniard in the box.
Aside from his assist, Mata was noticeably quiet, and will have done little to worry suspended skipper Wayne Rooney about his place in the starting XI.
Radamel Falcao, on the other hand, finally broke his duck after being frustrated by a series of near misses. The Colombian forward continued to hussle, even clearing off his own goal line, and his determination finally paid off in the second half.
Di Maria showed that even his mistakes can turn to gold, after his weak, off-target shot found it’s way to Falcao, who latched on to the ball to net his first Red Devils goal.
Everton, meanwhile, were compact and neat, calmly keeping possession, but failed to truly trouble United until the cusp of half time. Perhaps tired by their midweek Europa League exertions, there was little of the exciting counter-attacking spirit shown in the Merseyside derby.
When Luke Shaw brought down a surging Tony Hibbert in the box, though, Everton appeared to have found a way back into the game. Usually reliable spot-kick taker Leighton Baines stepped up, but his tame penalty effort was easily saved by De Gea.
The Toffees were spurred on by their sight of goal, however, and emerged from the break with a much more adventurous spirit. Dangerous Baines quickly made amends for his earlier oversight, whipping in a pinpoint cross for Steven Naismith, who was the Toffees’ main threat, to head home his fourth goal of the season past a helpless De Gea.
Everton, buoyed by their equaliser, continued to press even after falling behind again to Falcao’s sucker punch, but United were much more assured in defence than on previous outings.
Leon Osman’s strong low shot was stopped superbly by De Gea, as Martinez’s men poured forward. The keeper continued to be key in keeping the tenacious Toffees at bay, pushing Bryan Oviedo’s dramatic extra-time volley over the bar to save his side two points.
Seven yellow cards were awarded during the game, but it is apparent injuries to Shaw and, the once again impressive, John Stones that will worry Martinez, Van Gaal and England boss Roy Hodgson the most.
Despite claiming the spoils, Van Gaal will be well aware that it was the heroics of De Gea and Di Maria that made the difference for his team, although Daley Blind and Rafael also put in notable performances.
Everton, meanwhile, still need to get back into the groove that saw them almost beat Arsenal to a Champions League spot last term.Despite the absence of key men Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy, more is needed from the likes of Romelu Lukaku, who looked far from the fearsome forward he has already proven to be.
Martinez requires his summer signings to step up and provide cutting edge if the Toffees are to steer away from the fringes of the relegation zone. Unlucky not to earn a point from their late pressure, Everton needed to demonstrate that kind of intensity throughout both halves, but did suffer from being up against an opposition who had the luxury of a midweek rest.