A manager’s fortunes can switch in an instant and when Abdoulaye Doucouré shaped to convert Alex Iwobi’s 94th-minute cross at Goodison Park Ole Gunnar Solskjær must have feared the worst. An Everton equaliser beckoned but Doucouré produced an air-shot. United broke and substitute Edinson Cavani sealed a precious victory with his first goal for the club seconds later. Solskjær could breathe easily once again.
United’s seventh consecutive Premier League away win – equalling the club record set by Sir Alex Ferguson’s team in 1993 – was orchestrated by Bruno Fernandes and reinforced the view that Solskjær’s side are better equipped to flourish on their travels rather than Old Trafford. Fernandes scored twice and led the breakaway that ended with the Uruguay international converting the third with the final kick of the game. For Everton, a third successive league defeat rendered their flying start to the season a distant memory.
Solskjær turned to his bench with a look of resignation when his team’s sharp start was punctured by Bernard’s early opener but their response to falling behind will have emboldened him. It was not the reaction of a side short on commitment or at odds with a manager’s instructions. United controlled the opening exchanges with crisp, one touch passing and stretched their hosts repeatedly with intelligent movement. And that was precisely how they overturned an early deficit to lead through two Fernandes’ goals by half-time.
The Norwegian was not the only manager seeking improvement following two defeats that had checked his team’s momentum. Ancelotti was in a similar position, minus the pressure or the questions, and made six changes to the side beaten at Newcastle last weekend. The return from injury of James Rodríguez, Seamus Coleman and Mason Holgate, making his first start of the season in place of Yerry Mina, shaped the selection as much as the stale performance at St James’ Park. Bernard was also handed a first Premier League start of the campaign and vindicated the decision with a lively display – he was the only midfielder in royal blue to do so – and a fine opening goal. From his perspective, that is. For United, it was another example of the weak defending that regularly undermines their bright work at the opposite end of the pitch.
Jordan Pickford, recalled to the starting lineup as Ancelotti had promised following his benching at Newcastle, launched a clearance upfield towards Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The Everton No 9 won the aerial challenge easily against Victor Lindelöf – he would bully the centre-half all game – and flicked on to Bernard. Aaron Wan-Bissaka hesitated in the challenge, a fatal error, and the Brazilian drilled a low shot between the legs of the full-back and just inside David de Gea’s right hand post. Solskjær wore the look of a manager who had seen such lapses far too often.
United, however, levelled in style six minutes later. Ancelotti sensed danger as soon as Everton lost possession in central midfield and berated his players for allowing the visitors to pass through them too easily. They never got near a red shirt. Juan Mata released Luke Shaw on the left and his cross was delivered to perfection between Everton’s central defenders. Fernandes, his run unchecked, ghosted into the gap between Michael Keane and Holgate to beat Pickford with a superb header.
It should have been United’s second of the game but Anthony Martial squandered a gilt-edged chance with only Pickford to beat moments before Bernard struck. Their second arrived from a similar source, neat combinations prising open Everton’s right flank before Fernandes converted, although on this occasion the Portugal international’s finish was entirely accidental. Marcus Rashford, thanked for his work on the school meal vouchers by the Everton Fans’ Forum before kick off, found Fernandes in space on the left before darting into the area for the return ball. The cross sailed past his head but also beat Pickford via the inside of the far post.
Everton’s best opportunity for a second had come and gone by the time they fell behind. Bernard sent Lucas Digne racing into the United penalty area with an impudent reverse pass. Calvert-Lewin was unmarked in front of goal but the left back took the shot himself and hit the outside of De Gea’s near post with an angled drive. The striker was not amused, and would be starved of service in front of goal throughout.
Pickford almost handed United a third when, attempting to collect Mata’s free-kick, he dropped the ball at the feet of Harry Maguire following a slight push by the defender. Maguire kneed the half chance over the bar before taking a kick in the chest from the Everton goalkeeper, though VAR decided there would be no penalty. Maguire himself was fortunate to escape punishment for a heavy challenge on Digne inside the area. He caught the ball and the defender’s ankle but play had been halted for an offside against Calvert-Lewin in the buildup.
Doucouré missed two excellent chances to equalise late on for Everton and was punished when Cavani seized on Fernandes’s pass to beat Pickford from close range.