Radamel Falcao's first Manchester United goal secured a crucial 2-1 Barclays Premier League win over Everton but it was the performance of David De Gea that stole the show at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The Spaniard became the first goalkeeper to save a penalty from Leighton Baines in the Barclays Premier League then produced two stunning saves as Everton threatened to snatch a late equaliser. Angel Di Maria had put the hosts ahead with his third goal in five matches before De Gea dived low to his right to keep out Baines' penalty on the stroke of half-time. But, after Steven Naismith had levelled, Falcao, who is on a season-long loan from Monaco with a view to a permanent deal, popped up with a timely first goal for the club in the 62nd minute, before De Gea denied Everton a point gave United successive victories for the first time under Louis van Gaal.
The result was a huge boost to United ahead of a two-week international break, during which Van Gaal will hope some of his injured players, including Luke Shaw following his 70th-minute withdrawal, will regain full fitness. Defeat for Everton, meanwhile, extends the Merseyside club's winless streak to five matches in all competitions. The win lifted United to fifth, while Everton are 17th ahead of other matches on Sunday.
Juan Mata deputised for the suspended Wayne Rooney, with Robin van Persie taking the captain's armband, and Antonio Valencia came in for injured midfielder Ander Herrera. The visitors also made two alterations from last weekend's 1-1 draw at Liverpool, Steven Pienaar and Aiden McGeady replacing Kevin Mirallas and James McCarthy.
United began confidently in attack, Falcao forcing an early save from Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard with a diving header from Shaw's cross. Van Persie was next to threaten when turning an effort just over following a powerful Di Maria centre. The hosts continued to look the more dangerous, even if Everton were enjoying the lion's share of possession.
Roberto Martinez's side found themselves behind in the 27th minute, Di Maria continuing his fine form since moving to Old Trafford from Real Madrid in August. After Phil Jagielka had hooked Rafael da Silva's cross clear, the ball fell to Mata, who squared for the Argentina winger to curl beyond Howard.
Howard was called into action again soon after, turning Di Maria's deflected free-kick over the crossbar. United were fortunate to head into the break ahead, though, with De Gea denying Baines from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time after Shaw had felled Tony Hibbert. It was Baines’s first miss from the spot at the 15th attempt.
Van Gaal's men were pegged back in the 55th minute when Naismith met Baines' superb cross with a clever diving header to haul the sides level. Suddenly in the ascendancy, Everton pressed forward further with Jagielka seeing a header cleared off the line by Falcao after meeting Baines' corner.
But United found a response, Falcao producing a smart finish to convert Di Maria's effort. Nervy moments followed for the home side, as De Gea denied Leon Osman with a stunning right-handed stop. The goalkeeper's heroics did not end there as he once more produced a superb save to turn over Bryan Oviedo's volley after Tyler Blackett had blocked Gareth Barry's strike.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal: “It was a very good first half, like against West Ham. We created a lot of chances but in the first half we only scored one goal from all those chances. Then we got a penalty given against us. Everton hadn’t created any chances until the last minute of the half, but fortunately De Gea stops the penalty.
"Then the second half was easier to play against Everton because they wanted to equalise, so we had to keep the ball. But we couldn’t do that. I made substitutions to help our organisation but despite my changes it was not better because in the last 15 minutes they created three big chances.
"David De Gea was fantastic today. When there are a lot of players in front of you your view is not so good as a goalkeeper. When the shot comes in from outside the box it is always at the last moment that you see the ball, but his reflexes are very good.
"I have told the players, we are not playing well but we are fourth in the table. What is coming when we play well?”
Everton manager Roberto Martinez: “It was a fantastic game of football. We gave everything we had and played with real intensity. We were slow early on and I don’t think we could get our rhythm. But we showed character and didn’t show disappointment after the penalty.
“The players don’t deserve the feeling they are sharing now. In football these things happen and De Gea was the man of the match and the difference in the scoreline.
“Everyone in the ground was waiting for the net to bulge when Osman and Oviedo had those chances. He [De Gea] had an outstanding performance which stopped us from a positive scoreline. We played right to the end with a lot of energy and effort.”
|29 Nov 2014||v Hull (H)|
|08 Nov 2014||v Crystal Palace (H)|
|26 Oct 2014||v Chelsea (H)|
|14 Dec 2014||v Liverpool (H)|
|02 Dec 2014||v Stoke (H)|
|02 Nov 2014||v Man City (A)|