Everton were left burning with a sense of injustice over the record 10-point deduction, which has reignited relegation fears just when it looked like Sean Dyche’s side had left them behind. Manchester United instead performed with a cool head and cold intentions, and were able to enjoy the biggest win of their improving season as a result.
United’s previous seven wins this season have all been by one-goal margins, but here, against an Everton team reeling from the harshest sporting sanction in Premier League history, an ultimately comfortable win was built on character and the clinical touch that their opponents lack. .
A brilliant bicycle kick from Alejandro Garnacho set Erik ten Hag’s side on their way to an impressive victory, with 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo excelling on his full debut. A second-half penalty from Marcus Rashford proved crucial in denying Everton the match. Anthony Martial provided the sparkle late on with his first goal of the season.
Dyche’s team created a host of good chances – they had 24 attempts on goal compared to United’s nine – and adapted well to the unique circumstances the club faced. But when they finished, they let them down again at Goodison Park. Everton are five points from safety and cannot afford to be demoralized by a penalty not caused by the players.
“The message to them is: we can cry and worry about it and say it’s unfair, and I think the whole of football thinks it’s unfair,” the Everton manager said. ‘Or we continue with it. We can’t guarantee the appeal, only what we can do on the field every week.”
Everton’s protests against the Premier League were well funded, with over £40,000 raised for the various banners and 38,000 pink cards that filled Goodison Park, impressively coordinated and massively executed. There was a wild atmosphere at the old ground and the booing started as two men entered the pitch before kick-off with Premier League lettering.
But what an angry crowd and a fired-up team couldn’t legislate for was an early moment of sheer brilliance from Garnacho. His miraculous bicycle kick temporarily took the sting out of Everton’s anger and was an emphatic reminder of the individual talent that Ten Hag had. Despite all the anxiety surrounding United’s season, they have now been the in-form team in the league since the start of October with five wins from six games and fifteen points. Confidence is something Garnacho does not lack, as he confirmed after 136 seconds.
Everton were exposed by a cross-field pass from Victor Lindelöf to Rashford on the right. It wouldn’t be the only opportunity. Rashford released Diogo Dalot on the touchline and although his deep cross sailed out of harm’s way, Garnacho read his break to perfection. The teen took a step back and turned away from the target. He launched himself into the air to meet Dalot’s delivery with an unstoppable bicycle kick that flew into the top corner of Jordan Pickford’s goal, with the Everton goalkeeper well beaten. The goal of the season contender was reminiscent of Wayne Rooney’s spectacular winner for United against Manchester City in 2011. It was no surprise that United fans repeated their old Rooney chant moments later.
Garnacho’s goal stunned Everton, but gradually their composure on the ball improved to match their intensity. The hosts created enough chances to take the lead after the break. Dominic Calvert-Lewin met James Garner’s corner with a towering header that he placed too close to André Onana.