UNITED Kingdom, April 3 – Anthony Martial scored the only goal of the game as Manchester United beat Everton 1-0 in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday to climb within a point of fourth-placed local rivals Manchester City.
Martial’s 54th-minute strike gave the French striker his 13th goal of the season and helped United celebrate the fact that Old Trafford’s south stand had been renamed in honour of club great Bobby Charlton in fine fashion.
Victory kept alive United boss Louis van Gaal’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League — the top four clubs in England get a spot — and thus satisfying the minimum demand on an Old Trafford manager.
This was United’s fourth successive home win, a feat they managed for the first time since a six-match streak in April last year.
United have now won four of their last five league games, including the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.
Everton, as befits a side with a better away record than at Goodison Park, began with clear attacking intent and the United defence had to be on its toes to deal with Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku.
Barkley was a lively influence and in the 12th minute he found Gerard Deulofeu on the right, the Belgian cutting into the penalty area past two tackles without being able to have a clear shot before Matteo Darmian cleared the danger.
Everton continued to delight their travelling contingent with their attacking style, and Leighton Baines saw one of his trademark free kicks diverted for a corner as the first half approached the halfway mark.
Lukaku finally had a glimpse of a chance when England centre-half Chris Smalling slipped but United goalkeeper David de Gea had anticipated the danger and won the race to hack clear.
Daley Blind once more won a one-on-one duel with Lukaku as the Belgian threatened to break away, while at the other end right back Seamus Coleman had to be precision-perfect with a challenge to deny the raiding Marcos Rojo in Everton’s penalty area.
United’s measured build-up does not always please their fans, but a patient passing move almost resulted in the breakthrough only for defender John Stones to halt Martial in the area.
Everton resumed after half-time in determined mood, and Blind did well to block Lukaku’s effort in the area when Baines threaded a pass through to the Belgian with his back to goal.
However, it was Martial who broke the deadlock when he got on the end of a delightful passing move that started with Juan Mata, was enhanced by a neat backheel by Marcus Rashford and completed by the striker, who converted at the far post when Coleman failed to connect with an attempted clearance.
It was Manchester United’s 1,000th home goal in the Premier League.
Everton, stung into a reaction, responded almost immediately when captain Phil Jagielka headed a corner against the bar but, as the match wore on, United closed out the game.