Wayne Rooney scored against former club Everton while further finishes from Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera helped Manchester United to a comfortable 3-0 victory at Goodison Park on Saturday.
United had won just one of their previous seven visits to the blue half of Merseyside but Louis van Gaal’s side were too strong for a home team who were well below par on an afternoon tinged with sadness.
The news broke earlier on Saturday that Howard Kendall, Everton’s most successful a – and consequently popular a – manager had passed away that morning of a heart attack.
Kendall had a hugely illustrious playing career at Goodison Park, winning the First Division title in 1970, before assuming the managerial mantle on three separate occasions.
He delivered the Football League title twice (1985, 1987), the FA Cup in 1984 and the European Cup Winners Cup in 1985 during a halcyon spell where Everton and near-neighbours Liverpool dominated the English football landscape.
Kendall’s passing added a sombre touch to an occasion that Everton would have otherwise felt hugely confident of winning.
Van Gaal’s side entered this match on the back of a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal prior to the international break which had halted their progress this term.
They had also lost their three previous visits to this ground, all without scoring.
However, Everton had little to show for their efforts and United punished them with former prodigy Rooney twisting the knife in the second half.
Neither of these sides have really hit top gear so far this season a – despite their impressive Premier League placings -a and this match had a quiet opening.
Everton’s Romelu Lukaku was the only man who looked like scoring as he caused problems for Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in United’s defence while the visitors seemed extremely reluctant to test home goalkeeper Tim Howard.
Genuinely exciting moments remained non-existent until Schneiderlin ended the tedium and opened the scoring after 18 minutes.
Following a corner, Steve Naismith’s clearance only fell to Marcos Rojo, whose shot deflected off Smalling and into the path of the unmarked Schneiderlin, who calmly passed the ball past Howard from 12 yards.
Until that point, Everton had enjoyed more possession but had done nothing with it and just as they started to try and work their way back into the contest, United scored a second a – a goal that proved to be a real killer blow.
Slack Everton defending was to blame as Seamus Coleman clattered into Anthony Martial, which gave Rojo the space down the left wing he needed to whip in a cross that Herrera clinically converted as Everton’s defensive line stood and watched.
After the break, Everton responded to their deficit impressively and showed more heart but they had precious little end product.
De Gea did well to block a Lukaku shot and then a Ross Barkley free-kick in quick succession, before Rooney settled the occasion with a fine finish after 62 minutes.
He ran clean through on goal and thrashed an effort past Howard to silence Goodison Park and confirm United’s clear superiority in a contest they had never totally dominated but then they had never had the need to.
It was Rooney’s first goal at Goodison Park since April 2007 and he did not celebrate out of respect for his former club.
However, the huge smile on his face underlined his pleasure at getting United back to winning ways and this hard-fought victory will be an ideal warm-up for United’s testing Champions League contest with CSKA on Wednesday evening in Moscow.