Anthony Gordon, the excellent young product of the Goodison Park Academy, is ribbed by his teammates for his status as a fans’ favourite.
The 21-year-old talked about the playful teasing in an interview last month, when Gordon also related his determination to add ‘end product’ to a dynamic and fearless game.
What Gordon produced after 27 minutes here could ultimately go down as one of the most significant goals in the stellar 144-year history of his club.
The cries of ‘Oh, Antony Gordon' rolling around this stadium in the closing minutes indicated the forward’s place in supporters’ affections is assured for a long time to come.
Gordon scored past David de Gea via deflection but this wasn’t a day for details, not beyond the final outcome.
Everton, for whom Jordan Pickford was excellent, bookending the 90 minutes with first-rate stops – a one-handed save from Cristiano Ronaldo in stoppage time drew the breath away – beat Manchester United to create daylight between themselves and the Premier League’s bottom three.
When it was finished Vitalii Mykolenko and Richarlison dropped to the turf, a mixture of relief and exhaustion on an afternoon when Frank Lampard’s players ran themselves into the ground.
It is 11 days until manager Lampard’s play again, a Goodison Park clash with Leicester City, and how much easier Evertonians can breathe in that period of inactivity.
Not only due to the result, here, but in the knowledge Everton will emerge from their mini-break full of confidence and optimism.
Gordon has barely put a foot wrong since establishing a strong foothold in Everton’s team this season.
He works like mad and in possession is brave and ambitious.
And how all three attributes paid off for Gordon after 27 minutes of a contest that had largely involved Everton resisting United pressure.
The irony was, Gordon’s radar was marginally off in the build-up to his goal.
Spying Richarlison flying into space on the left, Gordon ushered a pass for the Brazilian but was slightly heavy-handed, sending his teammate wide.
The time it took Richarlison to gather and face up turned out to be a blessing. It allowed Gordon to advance to a position to collect a weak clearance from Richarlison’s cross.
Moments after fractionally misplacing a pass, and with tension audibly wrapping its clutches around Goodison Park, the easy option for Gordon would have been to transfer responsibility.
But the player from Everton’s Academy had only one thought in his mind. The shot was on target but probably destined for the gloves of De Gea.
If you don’t buy a ticket… enter Harry Maguire, who deflected the ball along a different path, completely wrong-footing De Gea.
Goodison erupted in a noise that would have tested even the hardiest of ear drums.
United, in the ascendancy until this point, were shell shocked.
Michael Keane stooped to head over Gordon’s flat free-kick from the right as the visitors tried to regain their poise.
Then, on 36 minutes, De Gea was nearly foiled by another deflection.
Richarlison, operating on the left of a front three, jinked into space on the edge of the box. The strike came with the same right foot that scored twice from the spot at Burnley in midweek and took a wicked deflection.
De Gea arched his back and leapt high to fingertip over the top.
The Evertonians formerly clearing their throats for guttural roars to greet hefty challenges – Fabian Delph sent Fred cartwheeling and Marcus Rashford was twice lustily dispossessed by Allan – were increasingly optimistic of a second goal.
United more than once struggled to clear their lines, Aaron Wan-Bissaka – who angered Goodison with an earlier heavy-duty challenge on Richarlison – repelling a low Allan drive following one desperate scramble.
The mass of blue shirts in the away penalty box was a sight generally reserved for set-piece deliveries.
In open play, Everton typically went forward with three man, keeping more than half their outfield players behind the ball to negate Manchester United’s counter-attacking threat.
When Bruno Fernandes did escape for a dash down the left, there were no takers for a delivery flashed across goal.
Fernandes was the architect, swinging in a cross from the left, when Rashford’s header produced a fabulous stop from Jordan Pickford at the foot of his right post after 12 minutes.
The same two players had gone head to head minutes previously and it was the Everton goalkeeper prevailing then, too, Pickford equal to a shot aimed inside his right post.
Keane was well-positioned to thwart Ronaldo following Fernandes’ disguised return pass, while another Ronaldo attempt rushed past the left upright.
United, forced into a 36th-minute change when the stricken Fred was replaced by Paul Pogba, cleared their heads by the end of the opening half
Godfrey executed a brilliant sliding interception stop Alex Telles’ cross reaching Ronaldo at the far post.
Rashford toed wide from close range soon after the restart – but the away team were struggling to exploit their greater possession share.
Pogba’s frustration translated into a trip on Gordon, the Frenchman booked for his misdemeanour.
Everton thought they merited another call from Jonathan Moss, the referee, when Wan-Bissaka wiped out Mykolenko after a low cross from the left-back.
Play went on and Gordon’s subsequent shot was blocked.
Godfrey headed over from a Gordon corner in front of a raucous Howard Kendall Gwladys Street, soon given another gee-up by Richarlison after the South American bought a corner off Wan-Bissaka.
The United right-back covered to prevent Gordon’s low delivery connecting with Richarlison after 69 minutes.
Gordon, in a near replica of the penalty he won at Burnley three days ago, caught Telles by surprise with his movement in the box but Moss didn’t see enough contact to point to the spot as the forward tumbled.
Pogba aimed a nasty, dipping 20 yarder with 10 minutes remaining but met his match in Pickford, demonstrating fantastic handling to hold on down to his right.
United were putting the hammer down now. Delph, excellent at the base of midfield, cramped up and was replaced by Abdoulaye Doucoure.
Demarai Gray, on for Calvert-Lewin, flung his body in the way of a hard-hit Wan-Bissaka effort.
Pickford, meanwhile, saved his best for last.
The game had entered five minutes of added time when Ronaldo controlled and carefully aimed a shot to Pickford’s right.
The keeper stood tall, refusing to take the bait as Ronaldo hesitated before striking, and sot out a hand to save.
In that moment, United were done and Everton had banked three points as precious as any earned in a very long time.
Fortune Favours Brave Gordon
Anthony Gordon fondly imagined how his first Everton goal would look.
A right footer bent into the far corner after cutting in from the left flank was what he fancied.
This being the Premier League, where you don’t get to pick and choose, Gordon got off the mark with a scruffy goal in a game against Brighton & Hove Albion.
He added another in the same match but, due to a losing scoreline, experienced none of the elation anticipated following a meaningful personal achievement.
Gordon was made up after his third goal for the Club, however, one that was credited to him in hindsight after inadvertently deflecting home a Richarlison effort to cap a comfortable victory over Leeds United.
It’s not how they go in that matters, after all.
And here was an emphatic reminder of that point – with bells on – as Gordon netted his fourth and by far most important Everton goal after 27 minutes of this edgy contest.
Gordon’s original pass for Richarlison was slightly overcooked but the player making his 51st Everton appearance shook off the disappointment to progress through the middle.
Richarlison’s ball along the floor was only partially cleared, arriving at the feet of Gordon about 18 yards from goal.
The 21-year-old could never be mistaken for someone afraid of pulling the trigger. It is an endearing trait because it is indicative of a confident and courageous footballer.
Gordon backed himself again and fortune favoured the brave, as the ball heavily deflected off Harry Maguire to stump David de Gea in United’s goal.
Gordon will get his right-foot curler soon enough – and if it feels as good as this one, he won’t half enjoy it.
Pickford To Fore As Blues Survive Nerve Test
This qualified as a test of nerve for Everton on so many fronts.
Frank Lampard’s side went into the game hovering perilously above the bottom three and following a week when two tight matches produced nothing to add to a 25-point tally.
Manchester United were awkward opponents, too, a hybrid of Champions League pursuers and a talented bunch playing with an element of freedom now the big prizes are off the table.
We should, perhaps, have expected what unfolded in the opening stages, then.
The visitors steadily assumed a stranglehold of possession and created all the early openings.
This was the point when Everton could have buckled, given into the increasing weight of pressure and quartet of international attackers repeatedly bearing down on the hosts’ goal.
Instead, they demonstrated a healthy measure of character and focus to hold firm.
None more than Jordan Pickford, Everton’s reliably excellent goalkeeper.
Pickford twice saved from Marcus Rashford inside the opening 12 minutes. The first stop was all about the England number one’s athleticism, Pickford launching himself right to glove away Rashford’s 18-yard attempt.
When Rashford directed a header low to the same side of goal, Pickford called on his reflexes to deny a goal.
That pair of interventions from the 28-year-old, coupled with Everton’s organisation and discipline and concentration, provided the platform for the home team to grab a precious lead and ease a degree of the tension clogging up Goodison Park.