Fernandes’ double inspires United to victory at Everton
Bruno Fernandes’ double eased the pressure on boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United got back to winning ways at Everton.
Following their calamitous defeat against Istanbul Basaksehir in midweek and a loss to Arsenal last Sunday, it looked like the visitors were heading for more negative headlines when Everton took the lead after 19 minutes.
Jordan Pickford’s punt forward was flicked on by Dominic Calvert-Lewin before Bernard found the bottom corner with a crisp strike.
But within the space of 13 minutes, Solskjaer’s team completed a turnaround.
They equalised five minutes after going behind when Fernandes ghosted into the box and headed past Pickford from Luke Shaw’s cross for his fifth goal of the season.
Then after Lucas Digne had hit David de Gea’s right post with a rising shot, United went ahead as Fernandes’s lofted cross towards Marcus Rashford dropped into the bottom corner.
There were further chances for a much-improved United before Edinson Cavani scored his first goal for the club on the counter-attack in the final minute of added time.
The win sees United avoid their worst start to a top-flight season after seven games since 1990-91, and gives Solskjaer breathing space as the Premier League heads into the International break.
Victory for Everton would have taken them to the top of the table, but they struggled to break down United after their opener and were thankful to Pickford who returned to the side and made several saves.
A third successive defeat means they remain fifth in the table as United climb to 13th.
Pressure had mounted on Solskjaer after poor results and performances in two games over the past week.
But the Norwegian maintained that he would not “fall like a house of cards” and insisted he is the right man to take the club forward, despite former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino being linked with his job.
Once again, Solskjaer showed that when the pressure is on his team can produce a positive result, and it underlined his point that maybe the team is not in crisis but lacking consistency.
Having made four changes to the side that lost in Istanbul, Everton’s opener did little to calm fears about the United defence, which conceded a shocking first goal on Wednesday from their own corner.
Everton took a route-one approach with Calvert-Lewin’s flick leading to Bernard’s shot which hit the post on its way in.
But with Victor Lindelof back in the side, and more protection from Fred and Scott McTominay in midfield, United were more solid in defence, and had the wizardry of Fernandes to get them back into the game.
The Portuguese likes Goodison Park, having scored here last season in a 1-1 draw, and his header was well-taken after he found space in the Everton box.
Shaw, who took advantage of James Rodriguez failing to track back, also helped in United’s second by allowing Rashford to drift inside and support Fernandes for his sixth goal of the season.
Harry Maguire was much improved, but was involved in successive dramas around the hour mark when he had a penalty appeal turned down by the video assistant referee before taking out Digne with a hefty challenge despite getting the ball.
But Solskjaer, who could rightly point to further chances for Rashford, would have been relieved by Cavani’s injury-time goal as Everton searched for an equaliser.
The Uruguayan swept in from Fernandes’ pass to get off the mark and make it an almost perfect day for United and their under-fire manager.