Everton Beaten At United In Final Friendly

There was a measure of big-match feel around this friendly at Old Trafford.

Evertonians travelled in their numbers and made a noise and pretty much every available spot in the home stands was occupied.

We’ve neither seen nor heard proper football for 17 months. Indeed, the last time Everton were allowed to fill Goodison Park was for a Premier League game against Manchester United on 1 March last year.

Two top-flight teams renewing acquaintances on one of football’s most famous stages added to the impression of an occasion unfolding.

When the game got under way, however, there was no disguising the fact we were watching a friendly contest.

Sure, both teams were relatively competitive seven days from the start of a new season.

But there was an element of self-preservation, too, a total substitution count running into double figures and no appetite to risk injury ahead of the real stuff beginning next week.

Everton gave 14 minutes to Lewis Dobbin, the 18-year-old with three pre-season hat-tricks for the Club’s Under-23 team and 10 goals from five matches until today.

Andros Townsend walloped the frame of the goal for the second time as an Everton player, while Demarai Gray again showed up very well, creating issues for United with his speed of thought and fleet of foot.

The home team won the match with a rush of first-half goals, Mason Greenwood, Harry Magurie and Bruno Fernandes all on target between minutes nine and 29.

Diego Dalot dinked a header over Asmir Begovic after meeting Fred’s straight delivery with his back to goal in stoppage time at the end of the match.

That fourth goal was hard on Everton, who made more of the running after the restart but won’t be too concerned about not converting any of a handful of opportunities.

That part of their football becomes important when Southampton come to Goodison Park

Greenwood took advantage of a breakdown in communication in Everton’s backline to put United in front on eight minutes.

Alex Iwobi steered the ball back for Lucas Digne, who helped it on with his head in the same direction, unaware Jordan Pickford was in close proximity.

Greenwood scented opportunity and when the ball ran free the striker was ideally positioned, on the right of the penalty area, to slide a finish into the unattended goal.

Everton had, probably, marginally shaded it until this point.

Iwobi escaped behind the home defence inside 60 seconds to win a corner that was whipped across the face of goal by Townsend, David de Gea in no man’s land and Ben Godfrey inches from connecting at the back post.

Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure were shuffling behind the ball when United countered, Anthony Martial twice emphatically dispossessed after dawdling with Brazilian Allan in the vicinity.

Everton were without Dominic Calvert-Lewin here after the striker sustained a slight knock.

James Rodriguez was up front in the Englishman’s absence, with Gray playing on the shoulder of the Colombian.

Gray, the rapid signing from Bayer Leverkusen, left Nemanja Matic for dead on 22 minutes, tearing through the middle, but seeing his disguised pass for the intrepid Doucoure read by Victor Lindelof.

Roles reversed when Doucoure drove a controlled pass through the heart of the pitch for Gray.

The forward would have been in the clear but for Aaron Wan Bissaka covering across the full width of his backline to intervene.

An early mention, too, for a skilful, imaginative flick from Gray just short of the hour.

Running out of room on the left flank, he showed tremendous awareness to turn the ball inside for the underlapping Digne.

The left-back sped forwards to steer a rolled delivery into the middle. Iwobi missed it in the first instance.

But so did Maguire, inadvertently allowing the ball to run for Towsnend.

The next bit was a carbon copy of Townsend’s attempt in the Florida Cup game against Millonarios.

He jinked onto his left boot and let fly with a humdinger of a strike that clattered the underside of the bar before the bounce of the ball went in United’s favour.

By the time of Wan Bissaka’s earlier tackle to stop the breaking Gray, Everton were trying to recover a two-goal deficit.

Martial had failed to control when Pickford made the initial save from a dipping and bouncing 11th-minute Fernandes effort.

Four minutes later, Seamus Coleman sprinted back to stop Dan James in his tracks, conceding a corner with a well-timed sliding tackle.

Luke Shaw sent over the set-piece and England colleague Maguire leapt to direct an unstoppable header high to Pickford’s left.

Everton responded with their best spell of possession football in the opening 45 minutes.

The ball was shuttled and weaved around the edge of United’s penalty box, Everton quickening and slowing their passing to open space.

Doucoure eventually alighted on possession and sent a pass right for the overlapping Coleman.

The cross made its way to the far post, where Iwobi arrived to manufacture a strike with his right foot that flew wide to goalkeeper De Gea’s right.

Everton conceded again on 29 minutes.

Doucoure was penalised for a tug on Matic as United’s Serbian midfielder skirted the perimeter of the box with the ball at his feet.

No attempt to pull a fast one from United on the set-piece. Fernandes stood alone over the ball, telegraphing his intention.

There was nothing Pickford could do, nonetheless, about a strike that fairly flew into the keeper’s top-right corner.

Digne – moments after blocking a low Wan Bissaka drive close to goal, progressed down the left to create an opening eight minutes before the break.

The Frenchman’s cross, lifted to the back post, was met by Godfrey, still up from a preceding corner, but sending his header off target.

Changes were afoot for the second half. Anthony Gordon and Fabian Delph replaced Doucoure and James.

Asmir Begovic came on in goal after Pickford completed his first 45 minutes of football since England’s European Championship final four weeks ago.

Fernandes tried to pick up where he left off, striking from distance but watching the ball skip past Begovic’s right post.

De Gea comfortably fielded a 20-yard effort from Townsend – before the Everton player’s blast against the bar left the Spaniard rooted.

Everton made a couple more changes and, drew encouragement from Townsend’s near miss.

Tom Davies dispossessed a stunned Paul Pogba, left in a heap, to feed Iwobi for a shot that went off target.

Sixty seconds later Gray was no more than a centimetre from making contact with Iwobi’s low right-wing delivery.

It is obligatory to mention Paul Gascoigne at Euro ’96 in these situations – and Gray’s desperate lunge at the ball had all the hallmarks of the former England player’s agonising attempt to meet a Darren Anderton cross against Germany 25 years ago.

More recent memories were stirred when Godfrey drove deep into opposition territory with the ball at his feet.

He chose a pass for Anthony Gordon, whose effort reared into the gloves of De Gea.

De Gea and Fred combined to prevent Iwobi from meeting a Townsend cross and Dalot reacted sharply to stop Gordon reaching the loose ball.

Yerry Mina, back with Everton following his Cop America exploits, made a strong penalty-box block towards the end, then Davies was crowded out after an intricate one-two with Nathan Broadhead close to goal.

Dalot finished the scoring and the game – but the real action begins next week.

Everton: Pickford (Begovic h/t); Coleman (Kenny 60’), Godfrey (Mina 77’), Keane (Holgate 77’), Digne; Allan (Davies 60’), Doucoure (Delph h/t); Townsend (Broadhead 68’), Gray (Dobbin 77’), Iwobi; James (Gordon h/t).