Wayne Rooney’s Old Trafford return ended in disappointment as Antonio Valencia’s breath-taking strike set Manchester United on course for a comprehensive victory against Everton.
The build-up to Sunday’s encounter revolved around the return of United’s all-time top scorer for the first time since rejoining his boyhood club in the summer after 13 successful years in red.
Rooney was given a warm welcome at Old Trafford and left to a standing ovation, but it was Valencia that got fans on their feet as an outstanding half-volley kicked-off a United win that ended 4-0 thanks to late goals by Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial.
AN ELECTRIC START
Wayne Rooney would forever be a legend at the Stetford End, but this was the first time in over 14 years that he was coming to face the home team. An 18 year old Toffees boy on Boxing Day against the same side, he transformed himself into one of the world’s best forwards to carry forward Alex Ferguson’s final lap of success.
There was no time for sentiment though, as Everton soon found out after the entire stadium loudly clapped to the name announcement of their recently departed star. Rooney could only watch on as former team mate and once in a blue moon scorer Antonio Valencia skyrocketed a volley in the corner of the net.
A long day was beginning for Everton, who were yet to recover from large defeats to Atlanta and Tottenham.
SERENE FOR A WHILE
But that long day never did transpire, as former Blues hunter Romelu Lukaku managed to mess up two gift wrapped chances, ensuring him censure from team mate Juan Mata. Combined with Marcus Rashford’s unproductive runs and Mkhitaryan remaining anonymous, Everton soon found their voice.
A huge transfer window for Everton has been highlighted as an attempt to transfer themselves from European hopefuls to Top 4 contenders. But the massive flaw in their strategy was seen again and again, as constant runs petered out with no marksman to slot them in. It would have been an effort to put goals past the giant in the United goal named David De Gea, but despite chances, he was largely untroubled. Especially with the second half, United’s attack all but went dark as the match became a midfield passing affair with little action at either end.
A MAUDLIN MASSACRE
Wayne Rooney witnessed all this, and contributed by missing a close chance of his own. With his substitution though, a horror show started for the Toffees as they unravelled before his eyes. It all started with Mkhitaryan finally moving out of the shadows to slot in a Lukaku pass. This was followed by Romeno Lukaku deciding that his time had come. Taking a freekick just outside the box, he failed to breach the wall but in the confusion that followed, he was at the end of the melee to make it 3-0. A cupped ear to the travelling fans showing there was little love lost, Lukaku made it 7 goals in 7 matches in Red.
Morgan Schneiderlin’s hand ball for an Anthony Martial penalty was almost routine, and Ronald Koeman will continue to wonder what could have been with a more clinical forward line. Mourinho on the other hand found his team still at the top of the table, exactly identical with their blue City cousins.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Romelu Lukaku. Having succeeded handsomely on an individual level with the Toffees, this match was always going to be supercharged. Despite missing chances in the first half, his determination to prove a point showed itself in the last ten minutes as a goal and an assist ensured the scoreline flattered Manchester United. Not only has he fixed himself as a brilliant head to the United attack, he also proved a point to Ronald Koeman and Everton that without him as the leader of the pack, they have nothing to show for their efforts.
Everton need to sign a striker as of yesterday. Rooney was never going to be the answer, and having lost Lukaku. Despite spending as high as the top teams, they are clearly lacking and ahead of a run of four home games need to improve drastically on both domestic and international stages. Manchester United on the other hand have revisited some of their glory days under Ferguson as they lie neck and neck with Manchester City at the top of the table, lending a Manchurian flavour. An interesting away match to Southampton follows.
A FEW HISTORY LESSONS
- Before this match, Antonio Valencia had only scored once in the Premier League since Boxing Day 2011.
- Manchester United have now had more different goalscorers in the Premier League than any other team this season (7).
- The last time Everton went four consecutive games without a goal was April 2006
- 10 of Manchester United’s 16 goals have come after 70 minutes
- Manchester United remain the only side Wayne Rooney has never ended on the winning side against in the Premier League.
- Nine of the 24 Premier League goals scored in the final 10 minutes of games this season have been scored by Manchester United(38%).