Everton cruised to victory against Manchester United with a convincing 4-0 drubbing at Goodison Park.
Richarlison gave the hosts an early lead on Easter Sunday with an acrobatic finish from close range before a stunning Gylfi Sigurdsson strike from distance put the Toffees in control at half-time.
Lucas Digne’s half volley 10 minutes into the second half gave David de Gea no chance and it was substitute Theo Walcott who put the game beyond doubt with a neat finish.
Effort, intensity and clinical finishing
The last time Everton scored four or more goals against United in a competitive game was in October 1983. The Toffees stuck five past Gary Bailey that day, in a season which saw them lift their first league title in 15 years. While Silva’s side won’t be lifting any silverware this year, they can look forward to the end of the season, and indeed the next campaign, having seen major improvements on the attacking front in recent months.
Few Evertonians over the age of 30 would swap an attacking force of Graeme Sharp, Adrian Heath and Kevin Sheedy for anyone; all of whom lined up for Everton that day in 1984. Yet the current line up have shown they have the quality to score goals against some of the top teams in the league.
Gary Neville and Graeme Souness (abetted by complicit Sky Sports presenters) will tell you the result was down to an appalling United performance. And there’s no doubt they were poor; a shocking imitation of a Man Utd side. But as with the wins against Chelsea and Arsenal, the winning side of any game doesn’t score without putting in a performance of their own.
The energy and intensity of Everton’s play was of the highest standard from the first whistle, sensing a vulnerable United side nursing the wounds of a mid-week Champions League exit. They were more aggressive, putting United on the back foot and making the most of their opportunities in front of goal. Silva’s men had run 4km more than their opponents by half-time. They worked their socks off and put the effort in to make United look less than ordinary.
Keep it clean
Not only are Everton’s endeavours in the attacking third proving fruitful, but they’ve found consistency at the back too. Successful sides are built on solid foundations and Everton’s back 5 of late have been near impenetrable.
The Toffees have kept six clean sheets in their last eight games, conceding five goals since their 1-0 defeat to Watford on 9th February. Until that game at Vicarage Road, Silva’s side had only kept six clean sheets all season (a total of 31 games) and had only managed two since the 1-0 win against Cardiff in November. That run of 16 games without a clean sheet started at Anfield and signalled the start of a barren winter in Everton’s 2018/19 season.
It goes to show just how drastically the picture has improved at Everton since those first shoots of spring. The Newcastle collapse and the Fulham disappointment aside, the Toffees have been in top form, and the better understanding between the back four and Jordan Pickford has been key to the upturn in fortunes.
Familiarity breeds consistency
One of the vital ingredients for consistency in performances is familiarity between personnel. A back five of Pickford, Digne, Zouma, Keane and Coleman is undoubtedly Everton’s best line up. While that particular defence has made just three appearances in the last eight games, at least four of those players have lined up in the remaining five.
The midfield in front has picked itself – injuries and suspensions permitting – and it’s been to Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s credit that he has made himself an unplayable member of the team; not for his goal-scoring prowess, as his tally of two goals in the last eight will show. But his presence leading the line has created space and opportunities for the supporting cast.
Demonstrating aerial ability, strength in his hold up play and speed down the channels, Calvert-Lewin has been a thorn in the side of every defence he’s come up against, not least against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and now United at Goodison Park. His consistent appearances leading the line allow for relationships to be built which have seen the Toffees develop a recognisable pattern of play.
Silva’s side have more gears to get through
It feels strange to say on the back of a convincing 4-0 win against that team that used to win everything when you were a kid, but Everton did not need to be at their best to beat United.
A glance at the match stats at full-time will show you a fairly even match up: 48-52% possession, 584 touches to United’s 608, 386-421 passes; evenly matched for tackles and clearances. But perhaps the most telling stat other than the emphatic scoreline is shots on target: 15-7 in the home side’s favour.
The Toffees pressed their opponents from the first whistle, unsettling them and creating goal-scoring opportunities. Everton weren’t quite at the slickest either, certainly not when you compare them to the recent games against West Ham and Arsenal. But they more than did enough to win the game, making the most of their 15 shots to put the game to bed. Not a bad problem for Silva to ponder.
“Yeah but, can they do it against the top 6?”
And Silva has certainly had his fair share of problems in his debut season at Goodison. A positive – albeit unremarkable – start gave way to a dreadful run of 10 defeats in 16 after the Anfield derby, with the only wins coming against Burnley, Lincoln City, Bournemouth and Huddersfield Town.
The victories during that positive autumn spell came against sides varying between relegation fodder and those destined for mid-table obscurity. Southampton, Fulham, Leicester, Crystal Palace, Brighton and Cardiff were the teams beaten. For many Evertonians, it wasn’t enough evidence to prove that change really was just around the corner.
“He needs a couple of wins against top 6 sides” they said. It would appear Silva had been listening. Few would have predicted 10 points from a possible 12 against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and United, especially considering Everton’s recent record against those clubs. As @Matt_Cheetham points out: