Manchester United were almost left reeling when Dominic Calvert-Lewin celebrated a second goal at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon. VAR intervened and saved further blushes for David de Gea.
It was a mixed performance in a frantic 1-1 draw and these are the players who stood out.
Fernandes provided the impetus for United after De Gea’s catastrophic early error. In the first half, he played in a box-to-box role, dragging United forward alongside Fred and combining well with his new Brazilian teammate.
He scored United’s equaliser with an excellent swerving strike. Jordan Pickford should have done better, perhaps, but Fernandes now has three goals in six games for United. That’s in addition to a couple of assists.
After having the most touches on the pitch in the first half (51), Fernandes shifted higher up in the second. That was even more notable when Odion Ighalo replaced Mason Greenwood. Fernandes played centrally, almost in a false nine role. He did well there too but needed more support. That has to come in the summer.
It’s a renaissance period that has stretched out into a full on Nemanja Matic resurgence at United. He’s rescued a United career that appeared to be fading away.
Matic played at the base of a diamond midfield and mopped up for teammate after teammate. When Lindelof lost out to Calvert-Lewin, either through pace or strength in the air, Matic was there to help. The same was true when McTominay played a stray pass or Bruno Fernandes was halted as he broke forward.
Matic is having an excellent spell and is consistently one of United’s best players on the pitch. His role in controlling the midfield on Sunday was crucial, particularly in the second half when United were under pressure.
The captain’s armband finally has a player suitable for the task. Maguire is a leader on the pitch in how he plays, if not necessarily how he shouts across the backline. He, like Matic, was vital in helping Lindelof out against Calvert-Lewin and tackling the challenge of Richarlison too.
“For me, he’s earned the armband because of the personality he is,” Solskjaer said in his post-match press conference.
“He’s always known since the day he walked through the door that I see him as a leader. Maybe it helps. He’s definitely taken that role on very well.
Maguire also helps United out of pressure by stepping out of defence. It’s been clear in game after game.
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