EVERTON 3, MANCHESTER UNITED 0
Manchester United could find themselves looking over their shoulder if they were to suffer another Premier League defeat in what remains of the season. Last week’s 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge to Chelsea was followed by a 3-0 humbling at Goodison Park against Everton today as an unchanged side fell to defeat for the second game in a row.
United are now fourth in the league with Manchester City two points ahead with both clubs having four games left until the end of the season. A fourth place finish would be enough to qualify for the Champions League but could leave United facing a tough two legged qualification tie to return to the lucrative group stage following a change in UEFA rules.
If United continue to stumble, they might find themselves coming into range of Liverpool for the final Champions League spot. The Merseysiders could close to within four points of United if they win their game in hand at Hull City on Tuesday.
It was only the second time that United had conceded three in the league this season but they dominated 65% of possession once again only to see Everton capitalise on breaks and set pieces to pose the bigger threat and earn a deserved 3-0 home win, their third win against United at Goodison in as many seasons.
It was Everton’s seventh home win of the season, and their 11th unbeaten game at home in a row.
James McCarthy’s fifth minute opener saw United sliced open after Gareth Barry cleared Juan Mata’s ball into the box for Antonio Valencia.
The Everton man found himself on the ball at the business end of a counter attack after Seamus Coleman’s cross was deflected into his path, he skipped over attempted tackles by Paddy McNair and Daley Blind and opened the scoring with a ball under David De Gea.
John Stones directed a bullet header from Leighton Baines’ cross past De Gea and Ashley Young, who couldn’t keep the ball out on the line, to extend Everton’s lead to 2-0 in the 35th minute – his first goal for Everton.
Marouane Fellaini had been the recipient of a yellow card for an agricultural challenge on Seamus Coleman and missed an easy chance in the first half and was duly replaced by Radamel Falcao at half time but there was little change as United chased the game until Juan Mata was replaced by Angel Di Maria in the second half.
Falcao found space in the Everton defence and met Di Maria’s long ball with a flicked header that almost caught Tim Howard off his line out but the former United custodian retreated fast enough to make the save.
Kevin Mirallas stunned United with Everton’s third in the 74th minute after Romelu Lukaku cleverly left a through ball for him which would have seen the move break down with an offside flag.
United were static, waiting for the assistant referee’s flag, but second half sub Mirallas made the most of Ross Barkley’s through ball, steaming forward and into the action, and slotted his shot into the bottom left corner.
Falcao wasn’t able to start the United comeback after his shot from an acute angle was declared well offside as United’s afternoon petered out.
Mirallas could have made it four late on after cutting inside from the left flank, past a couple of United defenders and sending in a shot was that acrobatically saved by De Gea.
Louis Van Gaal brought back Robin Van Persie for United captain Wayne Rooney late on after the England man appeared to be injured earlier and was seen with an ice pack on his knee in the stands after he went off but in truth there was no way back after Mirallas’ goal.