Manchester United have suffered a disappointing 3-0 defeat at the hands of Everton this afternoon thanks to goals from James McCarthy, John Stones and Kevin Mirallas.
A poor start from Man United saw them go 1-0 behind inside the first five minutes of the match when McCarthy slotted home past David de Gea. Man United responded well but Marouane Fellaini and Daley Blind both missed good opportunities to draw the two sides level. Everton eventually punished them for their profligacy when Stones rose highest to head in his side’s second after 35 minutes played.
Following the break, Wayne Rooney came close to an equaliser for United but he couldn’t find a way past Everton keeper Tim Howard. Unfortunately for United, large spells of the second half passed without incident and they rarely threatened Everton’s goal, despite some good possession. A lapse in concentration at the back then allowed Mirallas to race through before he secured all three points for Roberto Martinez’s side.
Poor starts have been a feature of United’s play all season long and today was no different. McCarthy gave Everton the lead thanks to some haphazard defending from United before Fellaini fired a more than presentable chance over the bar minutes later.
Louis van Gaal’s side have conceded the first goal on far too many occasions over the course of the campaign and it is something they will need to cut out heading into next season. Although United eventually recovered and got themselves on the ball, the goal set the tone for the match and Stones’ second came as no surprise.
Against Chelsea last weekend, the in-form Marouane Fellaini was kept quiet by Kurt Zouma. It was an effective tactic from Jose Mourinho and one that went a long way to securing a 1-0 victory for the Premier League leaders.
Roberto Martinez may have been tempted to do the same but he opted for a different approach when it came to keeping limiting the 27-year-old’s impact on the fixture. Instead, Everton got inside Fellaini’s head, winding him up, targeting the physical side of his game and generally roughing him about. The tactic worked and Fellaini was anonymous for the majority of the first half before being hauled off at the interval.
The difference in United’s play with and without Carrick is remarkable. Blind, Ander Herrera and Fellaini all struggled to establish themselves in the middle of the park throughout the game and chances were few and far between as a result.
United rely on Carrick to provide a calming and assured presence in midfield and the team often crumble without him in the XI. Ilkay Gundogan has increasingly been linked with a move to Old Trafford and it is not hard to see why van Gaal wants another dynamic, ball playing midfielder in his squad.
The ease in which Everton scored their three goals will frustrate and worry van Gaal in equal measure. For McCarthy’s opener, Paddy McNair and Blind both failed to clear the ball in United’s box, allowing the midfielder to dance through before scoring. As for Stones’ strike, he had all the time and space in the world to plant a header into the net. Finally, United completely switched off when Mirallas ran through to seal the win.
McNair has performed admirably when called upon but a team with United’s ambitions cannot afford to rely on youngsters every week. Come the summer, van Gaal would be wise to bring some proven quality into his defence.
An injury to Wayne Rooney in the final minutes of the game was the icing on the cake for United following a miserable afternoon. The 29-year-old has been in cracking form in recent weeks but he struggled to influence the game at Goodison Park.
Carrick, Phil Jones, Rafael and Marcos Rojo have all picked up injuries recently and van Gaal will be concerned that Rooney has done the same. Hopefully it is not too serious and Rooney can return to action quickly. If not, United may need to rely on the disappointing Radamel Falcao.