Cristiano Ronaldo made history and Manchester United made amends. The all-time leading goalscorer in men’s international football and the Champions League became the first player to score 700 goals at club level as Erik ten Hag’s team recovered from their Manchester City mauling with an impressive win at Everton.
Ronaldo’s last appearance at Goodison Park resulted in a lame defeat and an FA charge for smacking a phone out of a young Everton fan’s hand. He will remember the return with much more fondness. The 37-year-old’s first Premier League goal of the season delivered a merited win as well as a unique place in football history, reaching a milestone that not even Pelé, Ferenc Puskas or Lionel Messi – yet – have accomplished. United Part II will not be remembered as the happiest time of Ronaldo’s remarkable career but it has witnessed something special.
Victory rewarded a far more unified and intelligent United performance than the one served up at the Etihad Stadium seven days earlier. It ended Everton’s run of seven games unbeaten, saw an ultimately encouraging full league debut from Casemiro and a much-needed show of resilience to withstand a late rally from Frank Lampard’s side.
“Criticism is normal when you have a defeat, especially in a big game, in a derby,” said Ten Hag. “You have to deal with that and learn lessons. We did that. We had a setback of going 1-0 down but we responded much better by sticking to the gameplan and doing our jobs.”
Ten Hag made four changes to the team flattered by their margin of defeat in the derby. Casemiro, the £70m summer signing, received a rude introduction as Everton made the perfect start on the back of his mistake. Receiving an awkward pass from Antony, he was dispossessed from behind by Amadou Onana’s strong challenge and left on the ground as Demarai Gray seized on the loose ball. Gray ran at United’s exposed defence and squared inside to Alex Iwobi, via a slight deflection. The Everton midfielder was urged to shoot by the home crowd and, heeding their calls, curled a superb shot from 25 yards past David de Gea’s despairing left hand. It was his first Premier League goal from outside the penalty area and a vivid demonstration of the confidence running through a player transformed since Lampard’s arrival. Goodison was bouncing, Ten Hag a picture of deflation in his technical area, yet again, but United would turn the mood of both.
The visitors’ recovery was assisted in no small measure by an error-strewn Everton display. Lampard’s team came in with the best defensive record in the Premier League but carelessness in possession weakened that foundation. As Lampard reflected: “There was a lack of edge to our game that is normally there and our calmness in possession can improve. We were off it to a degree in the first half.”
Idrissa Gueye was at fault for the equaliser when allowing an Iwobi pass to run under his foot. Bruno Fernandes touched the ball on to Anthony Martial, who released Antony into a chasm down the left of Everton’s defence. The former Ajax winger dinked a lovely finish over Jordan Pickford to register his third goal in three league games for United.
Pickford saved from Christian Eriksen, after Gueye lost possession again, and denied Martial at close range after a neat turn inside the six-yard area. Martial soon departed with what appeared a hip injury sustained in the warm-up. Enter Ronaldo, and another landmark in the extraordinary career of one of the game’s genuine greats.
United dominated possession and forced Everton into a deep retreat with few escape routes. Casemiro should have edged the visitors ahead from an exquisite Marcus Rashford cross but, having ghosted in behind the Everton defence, he directed a free header badly wide. The midfielder made amends when displaying the qualities that made him such an integral part of Real Madrid’s success in recent years. First, the Brazilian read Iwobi’s intentions to retrieve possession. He then threaded a pass down the left channel for Ronaldo to sprint away and beat Pickford with a powerful shot that flew under England’s No1 goalkeeper.
The goal arrived almost 20 years to the day since his first, for Sporting against Moreirense. It was a slice of history for him to savour in a United shirt. The general disappointment of his second spell at Old Trafford cannot detract from the phenomenal achievement.
Rashford looked to have sealed the win with a fine solo goal after Ronaldo headed on a clearance from De Gea. The forward beat Iwobi in the air, skipped away from a James Tarkowski challenge before rounding Pickford and converting. United’s players were ready to restart by the time VAR intervened. After a lengthy review the goal was harshly disallowed for a handball by Rashford as he rode the Tarkowski tackle.
Everton launched a late rally as they looked to benefit from the reprieve with Dominic Calvert-Lewin making his first appearance of the campaign off the bench. De Gea tipped away a shot from former United midfielder James Garner that was headed for the top corner but, despite an aerial bombardment, the visitors held firm.