LIVERPOOL: Jose Mourinho’s disappointing end to 2017 was quickly forgotten as goals from Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard earned Manchester United an impressive 2-0 victory against Everton at Goodison Park on Monday.
The New Year’s Day win lifted United back into second place in the table, above Chelsea and, for 24 hours at least, to within 12 points of runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Martial capped a spell of United pressure early in the second half by shooting his side in front after Paul Pogba had found him in space 20 yards from goal.
The striker took a controlling touch before producing a brilliant right-foot finish that flew into the top right corner of the Everton goal.
It was a much-improved second half showing from United and one capped by a superb individual goal from Lingard that settled the outcome 10 minutes from time.
After Luke Shaw won possession from an Everton throw-in, Pogba slipped through a pass which Lingard accepted, weaving his way through the midfield to the edge of the area before depositing an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner.
Everton, seeking to bounce back from the first defeat of Sam Allardyce’s reign, had made a promising start and, with their captain Wayne Rooney keen to impress against his former club, the hosts enjoyed the stronger start.
Youngster Mason Holgate met an early Rooney corner and headed over as Everton built pressure on a United side that had ended 2017 with a whimper.
In the absence of injured pair Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho had started with Martial as his lone striker but there was little early service for the French international.
Pogba ensured the half ended with United in the ascendancy with a counter-attack that ended with him playing in Lingard whose shot was the latest in a long line to miss the target.
But United were a far more dangerous proposition after the restart, creating a string of chances prior to their 56th minute opening goal.
Juan Mata’s long shot was tipped over by Pickford before the Spaniard unleashed a curling left-foot attempt that clipped the post.
Lingard sent Pogba through for the United midfielder whose shot, from a wide angle, flew across the face of goal.
Pogba, playing in a more advanced midfield position than usual, looked in the mood to add to United’s lead following Martial’s opener, a skilful run into the Everton area after 63 minutes ending with a shot which was parried by Pickford.
United looked likely to need that second goal after Allardyce made a double substitution, including the removal of Rooney, and Everton enjoyed their best spell of pressure.
But a near-post header from Niasse, from a Holgate cross, was the closest Everton could come to an equaliser during that brief period of control.
It required an excellent diving save from Pickford to keep out an 18-yard effort from Lingard, after more good build-up play from Pogba — although Lingard made no mistake when presented with a similar opportunity moments later.