Manchester United fell to an eighth league defeat of the season at Goodison Park, as a pumped-up Everton secured a vital victory in their fight against relegation.
Toffees youngster Anthony Gordon scored the only goal of the game midway through the first half, when his deflected shot burst past David De Gea.
United enjoyed long spells of pressure and possession in both halves, but struggled to eke out a really clear chance for much of the 90 minutes.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s late, late snapshot could have earned Man U a point, but England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford did well to repel the sharp effort.
FIRST HALF – A BATTLE OF NERVES
Before this game had even kicked off, you could sense the importance of this fixture around Goodison Park. There was a quiet pensive feeling among the home fans, but that all changed as the teams came out for kick-off.
The first few minutes were played out among an atmosphere of fervent, boisterous intensity. But as the Toffees began to make nervous mistakes and United gained a grip on proceedings, the silence became unsettling. Two early chances for Marcus Rashford – making his 200th Premier League appearance – only added to the tense aura around this wonderful old stadium.
Errors in Everton’s defensive-midfield area meant United had plenty of opportunities to carve out decent chances, but crosses were overhit or well defended by the determined Toffees backline.
And then, from nothing, Everton countered from the sustained United possession, and Gordon’s shot from the edge of the area deflected off Maguire and past theunfortunate David De Gea. Goodison erupted like a volcano that had laid dormant for a thousand years.
Suddenly, the home crowd were full of confidence, and their team too. Keane headed over, and then Richarlison’s shot was deflected over expertly by De Gea. In the final 10 minutes of the half, the feeling was that Everton were the side more likely to stretch their lead.
United threatened on the stroke of the interval – with Pogba now on for the injured Fred – but Ben Godfrey delivered a decisive header to disappoint several Reds waiting for Telles’ back-post cross.
A huge cheer went up as the half-time whistle went and, in some ways it felt fitting that Gordon, the youngest player on the pitch, had delivered the key moment in a half full of inhibited, nervous football.
When the sides returned to the pitch, the Toffees carried the energy of Gordon’s goal into the early minutes of the second half.
Pogba was booked for a late challenge on Everton’s goalscorer, and every corner and throw-in won by Everton was cheered with near-demented passion. Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin fought for every second ball that came their way, much to the delight of Goodison Park.
But as the hour-mark approached, nerves began to re-emerge, and United began to gain a grip, with Pogba and Fernandes gaining a stranglehold on possession.
Ralf Rangnick sent on Juan Mata and Anthony Elanga to try and add a few different elements to United’s box of attacking tricks, but despite the neat play in Everton’s half, the Reds struggle to create straightforward goalscoring chances endured.
Lampard’s men remained dangerous on the rare occasions they ventured forward, with Lindelof doing well to intercept Gordon’s attempted set-up for Iwobi. There was also a nervy moment when Gordon went down under a challenge from Telles inside the area, until referee Jon Moss waved play on.
Pogba tested Pickford from distance, but the Everton goalkeeper was as solid and confident as he had been all afternoon, doing well to hold on to the stinging low drive.
The pressure ramped right up in the final 10 minutes, but the ball just wouldn’t fall for United inside the area, despite several bits of good build-up work from Sancho and Telles in particular. It looked like a clear-cut chance would never appear, until, at last, it did. Maguire headed a cross into Ronaldo, just eight or 10 yards out, but his shot was superbly parried by Pickford’s reflexes. As the final minutes of added time ebbed away, the home crowd sensed it was to be their day, and they cheered and chanted their team over the line to a vital three points.
Goodison rose as one, to deafening applause, as the final whistle went. This result could mean Everton’s proud top-flight record endures, but for United, the frustrating inconsistency of recent months continues.