New year, new United

Pin Pogba guided his team to victory. AFP
Pogba guided his team to victory. AFP

New year, new United

Patrick Power by Patrick Power @rfutbol - 5 +12k

Manchester United kick-started their season with a vital win and a sublime performance led by skipper Paul Pogba. When the Frenchman is in the mood, the Red Devils look almost unstoppable.

The final bit of Premier League action got underway at Goodison Park in cold and rainy conditions, with Wayne Rooney wearing the captain's armband against his former side.

An open and promising start to the game with both teams eager to go forward, soon gave way to a more subdued approach from either contingent. The fear of making a costly mistake saw the teams remain coy in their offensive efforts, unwilling to take unnecesary risks.

Rooney led his team from the middle of the park, dropping deep to provide balance for the hosts. His new role in the team was highlighted by a cynical foul on Anthony Martial which earned him a booking most holding midfielders would have been proud of.

Clear-cut chances in front of goal came at a premium, despite lengthy spells of possession, both sides lacked spark in the final third to trouble the goalkeepers. The Red Devils gradually claimed the upper hand and towards the end of the first half Allardyce's men had to endure a spell of pressure from the visitors.

It continued into the second period, with Paul Pogba pulling the strings as United upped the ante. Juan Mata tried his luck from distance, forcing Jordan Pickford to tip over the bar. The Spaniard came even closer with his second effort from 25 yards, clipping the outside of the post as he aimed for the top corner.

The fixture opened up for United who eventually found the back of the net. Pogba worked the ball for Martial on the edge of the area with the outside of his foot and the Frenchman lined up a shot before curling a beauty into the top corner. A deserved breakthrough which gave United the confidence to knock the ball around at ease.

Led by the towering figure of Pogba, the Red Devils looked to capitalise on their dominance by punishing the Toffees with a second. A double substitution from Allardyce, who brought on Lennon and McCarthy for Rooney and Bolasie, spurred the Toffees on, and a brief spell of home pressure ensued.

Niasse sent a header wide of the post in Everton's first real chance of the game, bringing the Goodison Park faithful back to life. The atmosphere certainly changed inside the stadium but the scoreline remained unaltered. With Pogba in a stellar role, United were a lingering threat. The Frenchman cut in brilliantly from the left before powering a shot at Pickford, and the keeper was quick to react moments later to push Lingard's low effort wide of the post.

However, there was nothing he could then do to keep out Lingard's sublime strike into the top corner, Pogba once again credited for the assist. With the game out of reach for the hosts, the Red Devils saw the game out comfortably to move back up to second in the Premier League, 12 points behind leaders Manchester City.

Patrick Power

Patrick Power

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