United make it seven wins in a row

Manchester United have now won 14 of their last 17 games in all competitions. That is title contender form. Friday night saw a break from league action as United beat strugglers Everton 3-1 at Old Trafford. The game seemed nervy at patches, but The Red Devils never seemed likely to lose. This win made United the first team into the fourth round of the FA Cup. Let’s take a look at some of the takeaways from an eye-opening, rainy night in Manchester.

Luke Shaw started for a third time as centre-back on Friday. (Photo by ManUtd.com)

Ten Hag hails ‘unstoppable’ Rashford

Marcus Rashford continued his impressive run of form with a spectacular performance against Everton. Within the first 5 minutes, he had beaten his man-marker Seamus Coleman, spinning past him before firing a low cross into the path of Antony.

It was a night to remember for the 25-year-old, who looked dangerous and intent on attacking every time he was on the ball. It’s a far cry from where Rashford was 12 months ago.

Rashford’s United career stalled under former interim boss Ralf Rangnick. (Photo by Manchester Evening News)

At this stage in his dismal previous season, Rashford had scored just three goals across all competitions. Against Everton, Rashford scored his thirteenth goal and provided his sixth assist of this campaign. The forward will be looking to continue this purple patch as United enter a crucial stage of the season. Manchester City at home and Arsenal away as their next two league outings.

Dalot impresses on return to first team

Before the World Cup break, Dalot was arguably Manchester United’s most improved player of the season. His path to United’s first team had been anything but straightforward. A spell as Aaron Wan Bissaka’s deputy followed by a loan move to AC Milan looked to signal Dalot’s impending exit from Old Trafford. Despite this, Ten Hag quickly established Dalot as his first choice right back – a decision that was quickly vindicated by a string of impressive performances from the Portuguese full back.

Dalot had been in the form of his life going into the World Cup. Picking up an injury in Portugal’s final game vs. Morocco, Dalot’s return to Old Trafford was curtailed. In his stead, Wan Bissaka proved a decent deputy.

Wan Bissaka provided a sublime assist for Eriksen vs. Burnley in the first post-World Cup game (Photo by Manchester Evening News)

Dalot’s return to the starting eleven was met with acclaim. He was Sofascore’s highest rated player vs. Everton (8.0).

Antony: future star or flop-to-be?

A lot of expectation was heaped upon Antony’s shoulders after his £82m move to Old Trafford in the summer. Though he cannot control his own price tag, it does come with significant pressure and some caveats. Early on, Antony seemed to rise tremendously to this pressure, scoring in his first three league games. Those three were his only three in United colours before Friday’s match vs. Everton.

Antony celebrates his debut goal vs. Arsenal at Old Trafford. (Photo by Irish Mirror)

His United career has come slightly off the boil. This is to be expected. In a new club, new country and new league it is nearly impossible to acclimatise so quickly – as Bruno Fernandes famously did in the second half of the 2019/20 season.

In this sense, Antony is in danger of becoming the next Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao or Alexis Sanchez – players with stellar reputations whose lights were not bright enough for Manchester United and who ultimately failed. An issue alreasy earmarked by fans is his one-footedness. As a left-footed right winger, his only move so far is to cut inside. Defenders know this and are generally adept at nullifying it. The jury is still out on the Brazilian winger.

Poor passing – a notable weakness for United?

United have a crucial period coming up in the league. Manchester City and Arsenal are their next two fixtures, and both will go a long way in determining whether United are genuine title contenders, or if their season will be limited to a tight race for the top four. One thing Eric Ten Hag will not be impressed with is the sloppiness of his team’s passing. Regularly in midfield, there was a ping pong battle for possession. Neither team looked assured on the ball – for a side as keen on aggressive possession as United, giving the ball away 105 times against Everton is a cause of great concern for Ten Hag.

Ten Hag has masterminded United best form in six years. (Photo by Football365)

Two crucial weeks for United & a fresh face?

A few season-defining fixtures follow. United, if all things go their way, could be into a League Cup semi-final and within touching distance of the Premier League’s top spot. Conversely, they could be dumped out of a winnable cup and be cast adrift of the already dubious shot at a title challenge. With a new striker, 30-year-old Wout Weghorst, seemingly on his way to Old Trafford on loan, United are hoping to carry on the momentum that got them to this imperious position. It is clear Ten Hag wants a trophy in his maiden season at United, and United continue fighting on four different fronts into January, and look good value to take at least one to the wire.

Author: Sam Talbot

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