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Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard Give Manchester United Win vs. Everton

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2018

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01: Anthony Martial of Manchester United and Wayne Rooney of Everton in action during the Premier League match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park on January 1, 2018 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard both scored to beat Everton 2-0 and send Manchester United back to second in the Premier League at Goodison Park on New Year's Day.

The Red Devils have gone two points ahead of Chelsea and reduced the gap on leaders Manchester City to 12 points, but both have played a game fewer.

BBC 5 live Sport confirmed both teams:

BBC 5 live Sport @5liveSport

We're underway at Goodison! Here's a quick reminder of the starting line-ups 🔵 #EVEMUN 🔴 LIVE 📻⚽️: https://t.co/C0jdhExntz https://t.co/GK8hjzYjwk

United were without natural centre-forwards Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic due to injury, so relied on pace and fluid movement to try to pull Everton's defenders out of position. To their credit, the away side rotated positions well, with Lingard and Juan Mata ghosting off the flanks and Paul Pogba getting ahead of Martial.

Yet for all their movement and deft touches, United were ultimately lacking a cutting edge. Instead, they were reduced to long-range shots from Ander Herrera and Pogba.

Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News felt the visitors weren't delivering the right service for Martial:

Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst

Martial doing his utmost but United lumping it up to him too often. Faring well when he is isolating Keane or Williams. #mufc

United were struggling, but Everton couldn't take advantage, despite a busy half for Wayne Rooney and Yannick Bolasie. Rooney threaded plenty of passes from midfield against his former club, while Bolasie's pace and trickery caused problems on the flanks.

The visitors were more lively at the start of the second half, with Mata forcing Jordan Pickford to tip a fierce shot over the bar. Mata was again dangerous moments later when his curled effort had Pickford beaten but clipped the outside of the post.

United were in the ascendancy, and Herrera narrowly failed to turn Luke Shaw's low cross into the net before Pogba placed a shot just wide of the far post.

Pogba was a class apart during the second half.
Pogba was a class apart during the second half.Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Shaw was becoming a menace on the overlap, while Pogba was taking up threatening positions on the inside left channel. Their movement summed up United's greater fluidity.

The Red Devils got the goal their progressive play deserved in the 56th minute when Pogba rolled a pass across for Martial, who lifted a shot out of Pickford's reach and into the top corner.

Sky Sports Statto reported how long Martial had waited to find the net, while also applauding Pogba's creative output:

Sky Sports Statto @SkySportsStatto

Anthony Martial ends a run of 8 apps without a goal with his 4th in 6 apps v Everton. Paul Pogba records his 6th assist in 12 PL games this season - had 4 assists in 30 PL apps last season https://t.co/GCPcD1zgip

Pogba's influence has been growing for a while, and the imperious midfielder stung Pickford's palms seven minutes later. He was also a whisker away from heading in when Martial's cross narrowly eluded him after a swift and stylish break.

The France international had come off the right wing to try to meet the cross, as Everton continually lost track of United's gifted No. 6.

Everton needed to show more intent and went close to equalising on 70 minutes when Oumar Niasse headed just past the post after meeting Mason Holgate's cross. It was the peak moment of a dominant 10 minutes from the home side, but it was a period the Toffees couldn't make count.

Lingard made Everton regret their profligacy when he curled in the second for a spectacular goal. WhoScored.com outlined Lingard's growing importance:

WhoScored.com @WhoScored

Jesse Lingard: Only Romelu Lukaku (14) has scored or assisted more Premier League goals for Manchester United this season than Lingard (11) #EVEMUN

Two fine goals were just reward for the swaggering football United played on their travels. Not having a target man actually helped the Red Devils play a more fluid, flowing game and perhaps offered a blueprint manager Jose Mourinho should adopt more often.

Now United will wait to see if Watford can slow City's march to the title on Tuesday, before watching Chelsea face fifth-placed Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

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