Not going to do a full post on this game because it’s Christmas Eve and no one is going to read it so we’re just sticking it here so my #takes are on the record and if I’m wrong I can’t pretend it never happened.
I threw this tweet up last night when I finished watching United’s League Cup fixture with Everton.
Immediately I was flooded with responses and almost all of them said the same thing. I was clearly being sarcastic. That was kind of incredible. I knew this would be an unpopular opinion and it looked like I was going to get away with one here.
But no, I’m back today and doubling down. Maybe “didn’t deserve to win” was a bit harsh. According to Between the Posts the xG finished 2.33 – 0.77 in United’s favor (though I’d guess about 0.8 of that came in the final minute on Rashford and Martial’s chances) so on that front they certainly deserved to win. However that doesn’t take away from the fact that United were really not good in this game and the ‘dominant’ performance had far more to do with Everton being utter shit than United ‘dominating.’
Remember, just because one team is bad doesn’t mean the other one has to be good. Everton were awful. They were truly remarkably awful. Their game plan over the first 25 minutes seemed to be ‘start our best XI but do the least amount of running possible.’ Most of the time it looked like they weren’t even trying.
Making things look way worse was the fact that Everton were making the silliest of dumb mistakes.
Here’s the thing, Everton weren’t making these mistakes because United were forcing them too. These were completely unforced errors. That’s how bad Everton were. And these were bad errors, the type that if you make them against a good team you get punished for. Everton made three of these in the first 15 minutes, they should have been 3-0 down right away. But that’s the thing, United were very much not making them pay for those mistakes… not even close.
Here’s Michael Keane under no pressure whatsoever just taking a horrible touch and thus allowing Mason Greenwood to move in to pick it off him (not the other way around).
But then Bruno takes a bad touch and United waste it.
A few minutes later Keane does another wasteful thing with the ball, giving a breakaway to Cavani. Do United take advantage of that? Of course not, Cavani decides to take a shot from the halfway line.
Then their goalkeeper misplays a ball, admittedly this is not easy for Cavani to make a play on but usually when your GK screws up like this it ends up in the back of the net.
Everton were handing this game to United on a silver platter, begging the Red Devils to end it before it even started and United were just… making really weird decisions.
Like why doesn’t Paul Pogba take his time and play a slow back heel instead of shooting this ball?
Why does Cavani stop running and try to let the goalkeeper slide past him instead of just tapping/shooting this ball?
Why the hell is Donny playing dummy’s in this position in the box?
United started the match so well but we’re being insanely wasteful, and after 16 minutes you could kind of tell things were changing. United took their foot off the gas a bit and began playing slowly and passing the ball around the back.
That’s when I started to worry. You have to strike while the iron is hot. If United take their foot off the gas, even if they’re keeping possession, you’re allowing Everton to settle into the game. That’s good for them, it’s not good for you.
Within a few minutes it was starting to have the feel of a game where eventually Everton would score against the run of play to go 1-0 up. A few minutes later things seemed even more dicy when United were under pressure playing out from the back.
Which quickly turned into Everton’s first chance of the game – which was well defended by Harry Maguire.
That was it though. That hot start had died down. From the 18th minute until United scored in the 87th minute the shot count was 7-5. Hardly a dominant performance.
Nemanja Matic was sensational in midfield. He kept the defense organized which was a major factor in Everton never really getting any good chances. Everton also insisted on playing long balls the entire game but with United having the height of Matic, Pogba, Tuanzebe, Bailly, and Maguire to deal with them they were never a factor.
But once United got the ball, they were terrible. When they had a chance to break they were missing simple passes.
So many passes looked like they were over hit. They were slamming passes to players five yards away from each other making it impossible to control them with your first touch. Every pass seemed like it was hit five yards to far. They were making blind back-heels in their own half of the pitch to players who weren’t open.
Just so many missed passes. Around the 81st minute even the commentator was making comments on the amount of missed passes by both teams.
Everton were so bad and yet, with five minutes to go the game was very much still in the balance. I know United were the better team, but this wasn’t a case of Everton being under siege and just trying to hold out for penalty kicks. This didn’t feel like one of those “it’s only a question of when United will score not if” situations.
In the 25 minutes before United finally scored the shot count was 2-1. Neither side was generating anything, this very much could have gone either way! That’s not a ‘dominant’ performance.
In the end, United got what they probably deserved. It was a thrilling end and I’m very happy with the result considering that I probably want to see United win the League Cup more than most fans do. I’m very happy with how they ultimately pulled it out late as it speaks to the mentality that this team is developing to not panic and know their chance will come.
This was probably the most entertaining bad game of football I’ve ever seen. But that’s what it was, a bad game of football. Everton were utter dogshit, but United were sloppy, wasteful, and had awful decision making themselves.
Good win, great result, but not dominant. (And there’s nothing wrong with that.)
Enjoy the holidays.