Manchester United’s 3-0 win over Everton Sunday had many feel-good moments — at least if you were supporting the side wearing red.
For one thing, United finally beat a league opponent by more than a goal. In their last two league matches going into Sunday, United won by the barest minimum, beating Fulham and newly-promoted Luton Town by 1-0 scores.
United also got a huge win on the road. Under Erik ten Hag, United have played 25 away matches in the league dating back to the 2022-23 season, and they’ve lost 10 and drawn 3.
But mostly, the feel good factor seemed to be back for United. Marcus Rashford got a much needed goal after Bruno Fernandes ceded a penalty kick to the misfiring English international. “I felt Marcus needed a little bit of confidence, he needed his goal,” Fernandes told Sky Sports. “Marcus is an excellent penalty taker too, I am 100% sure he could score that penalty.” (Cue the inevitable talk from pundits and ex-players about how a real captain would have kept that responsibility and not passed it on to someone else.)
Anthony Martial also played well, once again victimizing his favorite opponents. The forward, who was only starting because of an injury to Rasmus Højlund, drew the above-mentioned penalty for United’s second goal and then added the third to seal it — a beautiful chip over the keeper that took his tally against the Merseysiders to 9 goals in 14 league matches (12 goals in 17 matches in all competitions).
Meanwhile, Kobbie Mainoo bossed the midfield in his first start of the season. The latest academy starlet was everywhere, making key tackles, blocking shots and, most importantly, clearing a sure-fire Everton goal off the line when the match was still 1-0. Mainoo had impressed during the preseason tournament and probably would have already broken into the rotation had he not gotten hurt while on tour. There’s still a long way to go before we’ll know if he ends up like “Preseason Pirlo” Andreas Pereira or actually establishes himself as a regular starter. Still, the Everton match was a good start.
And, of course, there was the opening goal — a Wayne Rooney-esque overhead wonderstrike from Alejandro Garnacho that will replayed in commercials, vignettes and retrospectives in perpetuity. In fact, Gary Neville said he thought it was better than Rooney’s goal due to fact that Garnacho had to travel a lot further away from goal to get Diogo Dalot’s cross before he could even think about kicking it, whereas Nani’s cross to Rooney had found him, more or less, in stride.
“I felt it [Garnacho’s goal] was something I’ve not seen before. The thing that struck me straight away was the fact he had to move away, he comes in and comes back out, moves his feet quickly and then throws himself in the air,” Neville said on Sky Sports. “I played football at a professional level for a long time, I can’t do that, not just the overhead kick but even getting in the air to be able to make contact with the ball – because I’d think I’d break my neck!”
Most of all, United pinged back a determined Everton in front of a raucous crowd at Goodison Park still aggrieved the Premier League’s decision last week to hit the Toffees with a ten-point deduction for breaking financial rules.
The decision sent shockwaves throughout the league. For Everton, the move puts them squarely into the relegation zone and could expose the club to additional legal jeopardy as teams like Leeds, Leicester City and others that have been relegated the last couple of years could sue for damages, arguing Everton should have gone down in their stead. In fact, Burnley, Leicester and Leeds have already announced their intention to file a £300 million lawsuit.
There’s precedent for this: West Ham United got sanctioned for breaking transfer rules with their highly-controversial signings of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano in 2007. The Hammers then had to pay Sheffield United £20 million after the latter went down in 2007 instead of the former (Tevez even scored the goal that kept West Ham up — against Man Utd, of all teams).
And that could just be the beginning. The decision sent a chilling message that Manchester City or Chelsea could face far more serious sanctions for their far more serious and numerous charges.
But that will be of little comfort to what Everton fans, players, and employees are going through right now — not to mention the club’s owners: pending outgoing majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, pending incoming majority shareholders 777 Partners, and various minority owners.
Arguably, the only Everton owner that isn’t unhappy right now is Anthony Martial. Especially after Sunday…