Everton ensured David Moyes suffered a torrid return to Goodison Park, running out comfortable 2-0 winners to keep the pressure on Arsenal.
Leighton Baines smashed home his 13th goal from the spot in as many attempts in the Premier League after Phil Jones had handled in the box.
Kevin Mirallas then sprung the offside trap to net from a tight angle to double Everton’s lead before half-time.
Manchester United enjoyed the majority of possession but were unimaginative in attack while Everton looked dangerous with every foray forward. Ex-Toffee Wayne Rooney went close to replying late on but Tim Howard pulled off a superb save to help increase Everton’s lead over the Red Devils to 12 points- all but guaranteeing European football next season.
Arsenal’s 3-0 win at Hull earlier on Sunday keeps the Blues a point behind the Gunners in the race for fourth place and Champions League football.
See how the Toffees measured up in a thrilling performance which keeps Everton’s Champions League hopes alive:
Howard- 7- didn’t come under any considerable pressure but was alert when Rooney found himself one-on-one, doing brilliantly to get a hand to his shot when the net looked set to burst.
Baines- 8- was his usual self getting forward but this was as good a defensive display from the Kirkby-born full back as we’ve seen. Produced a number of perfectly timed tackles and was never beaten one-on-on. Showed the toughness to come away with the ball which led to the second goal.
Distin- 7- a solid first half display before needing to be replaced at the break (hamstring).
Stones- 8- the epitome of composed. Made seven clearances and never looked like he was going to be beaten. No problem adjusting to a change in centre-defence partner either.
Coleman- 10- a near-perfect performance from the full-back. Committed himself time and time again in attack and was too hot for Kagawa and Buttner to handle. Assisted Mirallas on the counter attack for the second goal and showed incredible energy and stamina to support attacks late in the game. Man of the Match.
Barry- 7- a typical Gareth Barry display. Sunday’s win could be the former Aston Villa player’s last game at Goodison Park. Having been successful with 88% of his 50 passes, Evertonians will be hoping to see him in Blue next season.
McCarthy- 9- the ex-Wigan man was sorely missed in the first half against Crystal Palace and having made his return to the side on Sunday, Everton looked an entirely different proposition. His intensity and determination helped nip United attacks in the bud and there was not a single blade of grass left untouched by the Irishman. Survived an injury scare after a poor Rooney challenge- finished the game; hopefully not too serious.
Barkley- 6- operated on the left side of what looked like a fluid midfield. Lined up mostly in the left-midfield position, tucking in when United had the ball to help form a 4-5-1 set-up. But when we had the ball, Barkley could be found on the left side of an attacking three. Showed glimpses of his talent but struggled with the defensive side of things.
Naismith- 7- a fine display from the Scot who has become so important to the team in this second half of the season. Had two opportunities which should have resulted with him being on the scoresheet but just miscued his strikes. But he was busy playing behind Lukaku and was always available, showing for the ball from his midfielders.
Mirallas- 8- one of the Belgian’s best games in a Blue shirt this season. Gave Buttner a torrid time and timed his run perfectly before a clinical finish. The winger now has eight goals and eight assists and his contributions this season have proved vital. Might have added to his tally with some better finishing.
Lukaku- 6- caused Jones and Evans problems through his size and presence alone and he seems to be better using this part of his game since Duncan Ferguson’s promotion to first-team affairs. But the Belgian’s first touch was often lacking and promising attacks often broke down as a result.
Alcaraz- 7- considering his last game was that miserable night across Stanley Park back in January, the Paraguayan was exceptional when he cam on for Distin at half-time. A complete professional, he slotted in alongside Stones like they’d be playing together for years. Made seven clearances and won all three of his aerial battles.
Osman- 6- showed tidy feet when he came on for Barkley in the second half.
McGeady- 5- introduced for Mirallas (who is rumoured to have suffered an injury) in injury time. Only had one touch.
What did you think of Everton’s wonderful win?…Do you agree with the ratings?…Who stood out for you and can Everton do enough to pounce on the CL spot if Arsenal slip up?…please leave your comments below…