Everton began 2018 with a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Manchester United at Goodison Park.
After a hotly-contested and even opening period, the visitors took the lead just before the hour when Anthony Martial curled a shot into the corner from the edge of the penalty area past a helpless Jordan Pickford.
The Blues rallied after falling behind but Jesse Lingard sealed all three points for the Red Devils with a similar strike to Martial’s with nine minutes remaining.
With the game taking place 48 hours after the trip to Bournemouth, Allardyce made wholesale changes to the first 11. There were, in fact, seven alterations to the team, as Wayne Rooney took occupancy the captain’s armband on his first start since overcoming an illness. It was a completely refreshed forward line with Oumar Niasse, Yannick Bolasie and Nikola Vlasic also restored from the off.
The visitors from Manchester took to the field without Romelu Lukaku, who netted 87 goals in his four seasons at Goodison prior to his summer transfer. A blow to the head against Southampton two days earlier left the Belgian suffering with concussion and, therefore, ruled him out of the match.
Everton made an encouraging start with Vlasic on the right and Bolasie down the left threatening in the opening passages of play. Rooney, one of three ex-Manchester United players in the Everton team, began in a deep-lying central role and had an early long-range shot deflected wide for a corner, from which Mason Holgate - another player recalled to the team, this time at right-back - planted a header over the crossbar.
Not long after, Tom Davies and Vlasic fired wide too as Everton moved the ball about well on a rain-soaked Goodison pitch. Niasse also had a sight of goal after barging past a couple tackles before eventually being crowded out at the last moment by Argentine defender Marcos Rojo.
Manchester United were restricted to very little in the opening half-hour and this was typified when Phil Jones, with little else on, ambitiously shot from 40 yards. His attempt landed amongst with the Everton fans in the Howard Kendall Gwladys Street End.
United did go closer - Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba and Lingard were all narrowly off-target with drives from outside the box - but the game reached the midway point with Pickford not having a save of note to make, other than a scrambled low touch on an Martial cross.
Whereas Everton had began the brightest, Manchester United had grown into the game as the first half progressed, leaving the contest well-poised when the players reappeared after the break.
Pickford had watched a number of shots sail wide in the opening 45 minutes, but within seconds of the restart he was called upon to tip an arrowing effort from Juan Mata over the bar for a corner. In the next attack, Mata went even closer from a similar distance with another powerfully-struck drive that this time beat Pickford and bounced away off the outside of the post.
Manchester United’s pressure told on 56 minutes when Martial rounded off a breakaway move with an inch-perfect finish from 25 yards out. Mata and Pogba combined before the Frenchman curled into the top corner, past Pickford’s outstretched left hand.
Allardyce’s response was a double substitution that saw James McCarthy and Aaron Lennon enter the fray in place of Bolasie and Rooney. But still the away team continued to control the game and Pogba was denied from doubling the lead by another fine Pickford stop.
McCarthy’s introduction did help to stop the moment and bring renewed energy to Everton’s midfield - he played a part in a move that ended with Niasse heading Holgate’s centre fractionally wide of the near post.
The Toffees, roared on by the Gwladys Street, rallied in an effort to find an equaliser. From another intricate move on the right, Davies had a goal-bound shot charged down.
While the hosts looked the ones more likely to register the next goal, United threatened with a counter-attack that eventually forced Pickford into a magnificent diving save to keep out Lingard’s low effort that was destined for the bottom corner.
But the England goalkeeper was unable to keep out Lingard’s next effort a minute later.
Collecting the ball from Pogba on the left flank, Lingard skipped in field before unleashing a curling effort into the top corner to ensure Everton would begin the new year with a defeat.
The Toffees must now switch their attentions from the Premier League to the FA Cup, with a trip to Anfield to play Liverpool in the third round of the competition just four days away.