Everton 1-2 Manchester United: Cristiano Ronaldo scores his 700TH club goal to give United the win

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The greatest goalscorer in European football had eased himself into the action when, suddenly, the path to history opened up in front of him.

Perhaps Everton’s defence had been lulled into a false sense of security over Cristiano Ronaldo, given he has spent much of this season on the bench, sulking, glowering and dealing with conjecture that his superpowers have waned. So when Casemiro nudged him forward, they backed off.

Big mistake. Ronaldo doesn’t move as quickly as he did in his prime but, at 38, he is still a phenomenon and knows how to score. And that is what he did, in the 44th minute. One touch to control, a second touch to take him away Conor Coady, the third zipped under Jordan Pickford.

Cristiano Ronaldo stole the show by scoring his 700th career club goal, which turned out to be the winner at Goodison Park

It came after Alex Iwobi fired Everton into an early lead with an excellent curled strike from outside the box

It came after Alex Iwobi fired Everton into an early lead with an excellent curled strike from outside the box

Antony levelled things 10 minutes later with a classy curled effort on his left foot after cutting in from the wing

Antony levelled things 10 minutes later with a classy curled effort on his left foot after cutting in from the wing

Here was another moment in the story of career like no other: goal number 700, 20 years after he had scored his first for Sporting Lisbon. Simply, there will never be another like him. While it is true that Manchester United’s future does not hinge on him, he’s not a bad option to have around.

For all that Erik ten Hag will have been exasperated at times by questions about his future – the latest stories involve a move to Inter Miami – there must have been comfort when the hamstrung Antony Martial signalled he could not continue and the Dutchman turned around to see Ronaldo.

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One week from their humiliation at the Etihad Stadium, ten Hag needed an immediate response to settle any nerves and that is what he got and the resilience, which lifted United into the top five, will have delighted him on a night when the rain lashed down and the conditions were ripe for mayhem.

All the more meritorious when you consider the start was everything ten Hag hoped it wouldn’t be. With the visitors moving gingerly and with a degree of uncertainty, there was a sense they would be vulnerable in the opening exchanges and so it proved.

Marcus Rashford looked to have made it 3-1 in the closing minutes, but the goal was ruled out for handball

Marcus Rashford looked to have made it 3-1 in the closing minutes, but the goal was ruled out for handball

Casemiro, making his first Premier League start, had barely got to grips with the helter-skelter of it all and suddenly found himself being set upon by the imposing presence of Amadou Onana. Before he knew it, the ball had been pilfered from him and Everton were in business.

Iwobi, such a revitalised figure under Lampard, moved menacingly forward and with Christian Eriksen not closing him down quickly enough, the Nigerian was able to take aim and placed a 25-yard effort into the top corner of the Park End net. Cue pandemonium.

A new stadium is crucial for Everton if they are going to progress but in these moments, when the floodlights are shining and the stands are jumping, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic. It was hard, too, not to envisage United melting as the temperature was turned up.

Amadou Onana put in an impressive display in the Everton midfield but grew frustrated and picked up a booking

Amadou Onana put in an impressive display in the Everton midfield but grew frustrated and picked up a booking

Glancing over to the Bullens Road, where the away fans sit, the mind drifted back to April and the abomination of a performance to which United’s fans were subjected; it was so bad that day patience snapped and splenetic fury was vented.

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Six months on, however, and the mood is significantly different. Yes, they might have walloped by City but they are not going to be the only ones on the end of such brutal treatment from the champions-elect and ten Hag, clearly, knows what he is doing.

True, the visitors were helped back into the contest by Everton’s desire to try and out-football them in midfield but, even still, it augured well how they remained calm to, first, get a foothold and eventually move clear.

United's new Brazilian signing Casemiro was impressive on his first Premier League start and picked up an assist

United’s new Brazilian signing Casemiro was impressive on his first Premier League start and picked up an assist

United were level within ten minutes of conceding. Idrissa Gana Gueye couldn’t keep control of a pass, Bruno Fernandes robbed him and quickly fed Martial, who in turn set Antony galloping into the penalty area and his poise, under pressure, was superb to finish.

He may have cost a king’s ransom to prise out of Ajax but Antony has scored three goals in his first three Premier League games for United something that Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Andy Cole and Wayne Rooney couldn’t manage. It’s quite a statistic for the Brazilian.

Here was one of those moments when the impact is doubly felt. United, in a flash, were imbued with confidence but the goal noticeably put a pin in Everton’s belief and they couldn’t put any passes together of meaning, enabling United to control things.

Casemiro, another who cost a colossal fee, was central to this. He wasn’t perfect for the 90 minutes, by any means, but he is outstanding footballer and when he was needed, there was a clever pass or a foot in and the knowhow of a multiple Champions League winner.

Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin caused problems off the bench in his first appearance back from injury

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Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin caused problems off the bench in his first appearance back from injury 

Iwobi, really, should have known better than trying to beat Casemiro with a stepover in the 44th minute but that mistake proved costly as he squandered possession and enabled the Brazilian to launch the counterattack that would prove decisive.

Frank Lampard, who had rightly lauded Everton’s defensive beforehand, will have been dismayed to have seen Ronaldo presented with such a huge expanse of space to attack and maybe Pickford will feel he could have done better but, right now, none of that is relevant.

What matters to United, who showed bravery and determination to preserve their lead when Everton launched a late aerial assault, and ten Hag is that the man with goals in his boots did what he has been doing for three decades. Viva Ronaldo indeed.

MATCH FACTS 

 

EVERTON (4-3-3) Pickford 6: Coleman 6 (Garner 75mins 6), Tarkowski 6, Coady 6, Mykolenko 6: Iwobi 6, Gana Gueye 5 (Calvert-Lewin 76mins), Onana 7: Gray 7, Maupay 5 (Rondon 84mins), Gordon 5 (McNeill 67mins) Subs not used: Begovic (GK), Keane, Davies, Vinagre, Rondon, John

Goals – Iwobi (5)

Booked – Onana, Gordon

Manager – Frank Lampard 6

MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1) de Gea 7: Dalot 7, Lindelof 7, Martinez 7, Shaw 6: Fernandes 7, Casemiro 8: Antony 7.5, Eriksen 7 (McTominay 82mins), Rashford 7: Martial 5 (Ronaldo 29mins 7.5) Subs not used: Heaton (GK), Malacia, Fred, Varane, Sancho, Pellistri, Elanga

Goals – Antony (15), Ronaldo (44)

Booked

Manager – Erik ten Hag 7

Attendance – 39,258

 

 

 

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