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United’s top-four spot ambition suffers setback, loses 0-3 to Everton



Everton’s midfielder, James McCarthy (left), scores past Manchester United’s goalkeeper, David de Gea, during the Premiership match at Goodison Park in Liverpool…yesterday. PHOTO: AFP

EVERTON’s late season revival continued yesterday with a coruscating Premier League win over Manchester United. Roberto Martinez’s side recorded their fifth win in six league games as they won this fixture for the third consecutive year.

James McCarthy’s counter-attacking goal and John Stones’ header had them 2-0 ahead just after the half hour. Kevin Mirallas beat the offside trap to score with 16 minutes remaining.

But they remain ensconced in the Champions League spots, seven points clear of fifth-placed Liverpool, who have a game in hand. On United’s last visit to Goodison, a spectator dressed as the ‘Grim Reaper’ was ejected for loitering behind David Moyes during the 2-0 defeat that marked the end of his tenure as the club’s manager.

Despite yesterday’s reverse, Van Gaal has no such fears but the Dutchman may have concerns over the manner of this loss. All three Everton goals – while well executed – were entirely avoidable.

McCarthy burst between Daley Blind and Paddy McNair who could only make timid challenges before converting coolly, Stones beat Antonio Valencia too easily in the air to fire in the second, and both Valencia and McNair switched off to allow Mirallas a free run at the exposed David De Gea for the third.

United showed an apparent inability to capitalise on their possession. Denuded of Michael Carrick by a calf problem, Van Gaal’s side were ponderous and became reliant on speculative efforts from distance by Marouane Fellaini and Blind amongst others.

The coach withdrew Fellaini – who had been booked for persistent fouling in spite of Van Gaal urging him to maintain his composure – at the interval and Juan Mata just after the hour, with Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria being brought on.

The Colombian had his first attempt on target in 363 Premier League minutes with a looping header – and had a later effort correctly ruled out for offside – but the visitors’ clearest opening remained a first-half Chris Smalling header that nestled in Tim Howard’s arms.

Further bad news came when the ineffective Wayne Rooney was withdrawn and was pictured applying ice to his left knee. Everton can be hugely satisfied with their biggest win over United in 23 years.

Their fourth successive home victory without conceding moves them above West Ham into the top 10 and maintains an unbeaten home record in 2015. The defensive lapses that have scarred much of their campaign have been replaced by combative and diligent displays and complimented by rapier quick countering attacks.

The manner in which Ross Barkley, Seamus Coleman and McCarthy scampered forward for the fifth-minute opener was breathtaking and set the pattern for a splendid display.

Stones’ towering header exhibited their greater desire, while Mirallas’ clincher was entirely in keeping with the ruthlessness of their performance; the Belgian running on to Barkley’s long pass while United hesitated and finishing decisively.

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