Defeat on a sunny Easter Sunday afternoon at Goodison Park did for David Moyes at Manchester United. And that was merely a routine 2-0 reverse at the end of a brief era. Five years later, at the start of a supposed new dawn, came humiliation. Ole Gunnar Solskjær is the inheritor and latest supervisor of a shambles.
On Friday the United manager said his players were in need of a reality check. It landed heavily on them as Marco Silva’s slick, expansive and clinical team recorded Everton’s biggest win over United since October 1984. Four outstanding goals from Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lucas Digne and Theo Walcott, plus one complete team performance, left Solksjær with another lament, this time over United’s failure to match Everton in the basics. A damning appraisal backed by a damning statistic: the visitors running 8.03km less than their opponents.
Embarrassment for United was not confined to the scoreline. It was writ large in the apathetic displays of their overpaid players, in Anthony Martial diving for a nonexistent penalty, in David de Gea throwing the ball straight at a dawdling Diogo Dalot and in United starting with the same central defence as in Moyes’ last stand in April 2014. There they were, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, the latter getting himself injured yet again to add to the sense of chaotic deja vu. At least in that moment he offered a semblance of commitment that was otherwise absent. Champions League qualification is the least of their worries.
Everton were superb and battered the visitors not only physically but in terms of quality, desire and work rate. United, fielding three changes to the side outclassed in Barcelona in midweek, were pathetic. A two-goal deficit at half-time flattered their spineless display.
The fear factor evaporated from United long ago yet the lack of reaction to their Champions League exit would have been galling for Solskjær and the club’s vociferous travelling support. They are a club welcomed with open arms when calling with the chequebook and visiting on their Premier League travels these days. A fifth consecutive away defeat in all competitions – the club’s worst sequence since 1981 – had a feeling of inevitability once Richarlison fired Everton ahead only 13 minutes in.
Silva’s team continued where they left off in their last home win against Arsenal, refusing their opponents time or space to build from the back and winning almost every second ball. Often unchallenged. United’s refusal, reluctance or inability to press in return contributed to a comfortable stroll for Everton.
The breakthrough was a replica of Phil Jagielka’s winner against Arsenal in its construction, although far removed in its execution. The excellent Digne launched a long throw towards the six-yard box where Dominic Calvert-Lewin beat Smalling in the aerial challenge. Richarlison met the flick-on with an acrobatic, emphatic overhead kick that flew into the roof of De Gea’s net before the goalkeeper or Dalot, the Brazilian’s designated marker, could react.
Richarlison’s stunning 13th league goal of the season was also the 45th conceded by United, equalling the club record for the most conceded in a Premier League campaign. It was also their 11th game in a row in all competitions without a clean sheet, extending their worst run for seven years. Number 46 and a unwanted club record was not long in coming.
Everton’s second stemmed from a United corner taken by Marcus Rashford and headed clear by Richarlison. Idrissa Gueye exchanged passes with the brilliant Bernard before releasing Sigurdsson into the United half. The counterattack slowed as he considered his options. Sensing a complete lack of resistance from Nemanja Matic offered the best solution, Sigurdsson stepped inside and swept a precise finish from over 25 yards inside De Gea’s right-hand post.
The United goalkeeper could have been sharper with his reaction – a criticism that could have been directed at everyone in pink – but Matic’s passive part in the goal encapsulated the visiting display.
Goodison revelled in Everton’s superiority as well as the toils of its former striker Romelu Lukaku on his 250th Premier League appearance, who led what was a three-pronged attack in name only. Lukaku’s defeat in a 50-50 challenge with Seamus Coleman was particularly well received.
The third was yet another outstanding finish, this time from Digne, who rifled a half volley inside De Gea’s near post after the keeper had punched clear a Sigurdsson corner. Martial was closest to the France full-back when the ball dropped but decided against any defensive effort. Moments later Sigurdsson took another corner from the left and attempted to score. What is known as taking the Michael. Only De Gea’s sharp reaction to volley off his own goalline prevented Sigurdsson succeeding.
Everton’s influential No 10 fashioned the fourth for Walcott with an impudent nutmeg of Victor Lindelöf. Calvert-Lewin had beaten two United players to a Digne throw before Sigurdsson sent the substitute sprinting clear. Walcott’s first touch took him away from goal but he still had time to correct his run and beat De Gea with a precise finish.
Solskjær headed over to the away section after the final whistle to offer an apology. His players offered the same with their performance.