A weird time for a game, 7pm on a Sunday. What happens when fixtures are at the behest of TV stations. I digress. In the actual game, United started the game poorly as Iwobi curled into the net after a mishap by Casemiro. United levelled after Everton’s own mishap meant the ball dropped to Martial, who delivered a nice pass to Antony that he finished. The winner came courtesy of another through ball, this time from the former Madrid boys as Casemiro served it on a plate for Ronaldo to finish. His 700th goal in his career. United should have had it sewn up but didn’t and Everton piled the pressure on at the end. United survived and came away with the three points.
The Jekylls and Hydes
A hallmark of United games so far this season is in the moment, a goal isn’t fully appreciated by the fans for how well constructed it was. For example, the goal that Antony burst onto the scene with at Old Trafford against Arsenal, it came at the end of a move where every player touched the ball before it went in. It was a great circulation by Man Utd and you can see it is something that has been worked on under Erik Ten Hag so far. Today was no different as United, despite going behind, were able to assert their dominance as they pinned the Evertonians back. Such was his influence, Casemiro’s performance tonight, his first start in the Premier League, characterised how United play.
In equal measure, the Brazilian was both brilliant and criminal. The brilliance came in what he has established himself as over the past 7 years – a lynchpin in the midfield to allow those ahead of him to affect the game. He was masterfully covering the spaces that we would usually see left, he was combative in the tackle but more, he was offering himself as an option on the ball and delivering some great passes. Not just for Ronaldo’s goal, which he sniped in behind, but on multiple occasions he effectively switched the play. Two moments spring to mind, one in each half. The first was with his back to play and normally, you would expect a pass back the way to the keeper that would have made it difficult to play out or to his left to Lindelof. However, he reverses in behind the press to Dalot, which gets us up the pitch. The second, he was again facing his own goal in a tight press just outside the centre circle. He controls and volleys a pass to Shaw to once again get United out of pressure and on the attack. Simple but effective things that are crucial to a team.
But the criminality came in patches. Perhaps it is the lack of match practice and the increased responsibility on the ball but he gave away passes on several occasions. Yes, Antony did play him an absolute hospital pass and it could have been a foul but he was still very culpable in losing the ball for that Iwobi goal. Even the assist he gave, he had to win it back in the first place as he tried to sweep the ball out wide with the outside of his foot. But he wasn’t the only one at it and it’s why I said he was microcosmic of the Red Devils as a whole. Dalot, in particular, Rashford and Antony were the other main culprits. Poor decisions or executing actions poorly were met with genuine moments of quality. Dalot, a pass with his weaker foot to Bruno that set up a good chance for Martial. Rashford, the cross for Casemiro that he should have buried and Antony, his goal obviously. United need to cut out those errors and hopefully they will with time.
Antony became the first Man Utd player in the Premier League to score in his first three games. He played on the periphery but was able to get on the scoresheet, which is all you can ask if a player is not stamping their authority over the game. By a virtue of being left footed and playing on the right, he has been able to get himself three goals. He has a tendency to shoot a lot and we haven’t seen it yet so hopefully he grows into that with some confidence. He’s clearly not lacking in it at the moment and long may it continue.
Having lost his place again to a deputy, Shaw has managed to play his way into the team by providing a different offensive thrust to Malacia. But that is nothing if you continue to play with the bad habits that the Englishman has developed. The proclivity to cheat in his defending is perhaps his most frustrating aspect of his drawbacks. It was something we didn’t see today. Usually when Shaw is running back on the recovery, he would concede a foul because he couldn’t be arsed to full track the run. In the second half, he tracked Iwobi and kept tracking until he was able to fully win it back. Like Williams and Telles before, Shaw has been given a kick up the backside. Hopefully, he doesn’t backslide like he did the other two times.