Manchester United head into the latest international break on a high after second consecutive 2-1 home victory, secured against Everton, a side that did the double over the Reds last season.
New boys Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao grabbed the goals to overcome Steven Naismith’s reply for the Merseysiders and David De Gea saved a Leighton Baines penalty at the end of the first half in an entertaining encounter.
The Reds were quickly on the front foot with Falcao’s diving header from a Luke Shaw cross well saved by Tim Howard and another delivery from the left, by Di Maria, sent over the bar by Robin van Persie.
The shots continued to rain in on goal from Daley Blind, Falcao and Di Maria and the pressure told when the excellent Rafael’s cross was dealt with unconvincingly by Phil Jagielka. Juan Mata pounced to intelligently roll an inviting ball into the path of Di Maria and the Argentinian supplied an immaculate finish out of Howard’s reach.
September’s Player of the Month was denied a second by Howard’s fine save when a free-kick flicked off the wall and headed for the corner of the net as United remained in control. However, Rafael needed to make a vital clearance from a corner and Romelu Lukaku escaped Paddy McNair to flash a warning sign wide.
There still appeared to be no huge threat to the lead until deep into first-half stoppage time when Shaw was adjudged to have fouled Tony Hibber inside the box. Penalty expert Baines stepped up but De Gea plunged to his right to pull off a wonderful save.
Despite an encouraging opening to the second period, which saw Falcao unable to meet a driven Di Maria cross-shot and then spurning a clear chance following Shaw’s tremendous run past Hibbert, the Toffees levelled on 55 minutes. A well-worked free-kick led to Baines crossing and an unmarked Naismith nodding home in from close range.
Falcao was a central figure in the next passage of play, clearing off the line from Jagielka at one end before sticking out a right boot to divert Di Maria’s shot past Howard following some patient work by Rafael and Antonio Valencia. Although the goal settled the hosts again, a raft of substitutions prevented any real flow to the proceedings.
Naismith passed up a golden opportunity to shoot and De Gea brilliantly kept out two firm drives by Leon Osman as Louis van Gaal’s men ultimately held out with the outstanding keeper also producing a stupendous late stop to deny Bryan Oviedo in injury time.