That the folks at Newton Heath didn’t come up with a name closer to the letter ‘A’ after ‘Manchester’ is the only reason United are not currently listed first on the premier league table this Monday morning. ‘Manchester Athletic’ for instance would have had us top today. After five games into the season, the narrative is beginning to shape that Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho will be involved in a title fight after-all, albeit a year late. Of course it remains early days in the season so far but it was poetically convenient for the narrative that the rest of the members of the top six dropped points to allow Manchester to move clear.
This, however, is no discussion about a Pep-Jose rivalry in Manchester. This is about the fact that United yet again registered a 4-0 win, this time against an Everton side that has under-achieved so far this season. Ironically, their performance yesterday was one of their better ones this season. Indeed, despite the thumping nature of the final score, Ronald Koeman’s side was very much in the game and with a shout of snatching a point as late as the 82nd minute. And yet United also derive their credit from this. They saw it through. This fell very much in the category of games they’d drop a couple of points as happened so often last season.
All credit from yesterday must, however, be tempered by the fact that the various turning points in the game were kinder to United than Everton. Jose Mourinho will particularly be concerned by the amount of chances conceded in the second half that required excellent stops from David De Gea to preserve United’s slender lead. Wayne Rooney and or Siggurdsson should’ve made it at least 1-1 before United found their feet again to score a second and kill off the game. They were the pair of odd chances that Stoke took last week. Thankfully, we weren’t made to pay a similar price this time.
More than anything though, United’s endurance has served them well so far, allowing for the team to exploit fatigue of the opposition late on to boost the goal difference. What it shouldn’t do is mask the apparent failings before the late goal blitz. And yet it can be counter-argued that United won 4-0 without playing well on the day. If that is the conclusion we draw from Sunday then perhaps the effectiveness of the team is what we’ll be banking on to carry United through the season.
A word on That Goal! We cannot be sure whether Matic meant for Valencia to use his space to provide a cross or whether the intention was to give the Ecuadorian an opportunity to shoot at goal. At the time, we must have all believed it was the former. And yet in flew an early contender for goal of the season from a most unlikely source. With that power and technique, you wonder why he doesn’t shoot more often! Funny then that United seemingly stopped having a go from range after the first goal. Suddenly, the overall aim was to get Lukaku to score, even when somebody else was better off having a shot at goal. It played perfectly into Everton’s plans of having the Belgian on triple lock-down, effectively keeping the score down when it could have easily been much better before halftime.
Whilst it’s all nice and lovely that the team will do everything they can to help Lukaku score, the forwards have to generally take on more responsibility to score goals without necessarily relying on the big Belgian. He can take care of himself. Indeed, his instincts as a striker are what helped him ghost in the box to poach a seventh goal in as many games for the club. Having got his message across the Everton fans that booed him, there was no fuss about giving Anthony Martial the penalty that the Frenchman won himself. It’s suprisingly great that he has never missed for the club. Perhaps he should remain on duty in that regard. A certain former manager only changed penalty takers when the current taker missed one.
It was imperative for United to recover from the set back last week and they eventually did. The positive vibe around the club has been restored. Domestically, and in the short-term, the challenge will be crystalized into a battle with the blue bellied folks across the road. United’s fixture schedule has allowed them a presence at the summit of the league since the opening weekend. With the Carabao Cup providing the distraction this week, the manager should be able to wrap his most important players in cotton wool ahead of the trip to St. Mary’s.