Bruno Fernandes’ double eased the pressure on boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United got back to winning ways at Everton.
Following their calamitous defeat against Istanbul Basaksehir in midweek and a loss to Arsenal last Sunday, it looked like the visitors were heading for more negative headlines when Everton took the lead after 19 minutes.
Jordan Pickford’s punt forward was flicked on by Dominic Calvert-Lewin before Bernard found the bottom corner with a crisp strike.
But within the space of 13 minutes, Solskjaer’s team completed a turnaround.
They equalised five minutes after going behind when Fernandes ghosted into the box and headed past Pickford from Luke Shaw’s cross for his fifth goal of the season.
Then after Lucas Digne had hit David de Gea’s right post with a rising shot, United went ahead as Fernandes’s lofted cross towards Marcus Rashford dropped into the bottom corner.
There were further chances for a much-improved United before Edinson Cavani scored his first goal for the club on the counter-attack in the final minute of added time.
The win sees United avoid their worst start to a top-flight season after seven games since 1990-91, and gives Solskjaer breathing space as the Premier League heads into the International break.
Victory for Everton would have taken them to the top of the table, but they struggled to break down United after their opener and were thankful to Pickford who returned to the side and made several saves.
A third successive defeat means they remain fifth in the table as United climb to 13th.
United offer perfect response to Solskjaer pressure
Pressure had mounted on Solskjaer after poor results and performances in two games over the past week.
But the Norwegian maintained that he would not “fall like a house of cards” and insisted he is the right man to take the club forward, despite former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino being linked with his job.
Once again, Solskjaer showed that when the pressure is on his team can produce a positive result, and it underlined his point that maybe the team is not in crisis but lacking consistency.
Having made four changes to the side that lost in Istanbul, Everton’s opener did little to calm fears about the United defence, which conceded a shocking first goal on Wednesday from their own corner.
Everton took a route-one approach with Calvert-Lewin’s flick leading to Bernard’s shot which hit the post on its way in.
But with Victor Lindelof back in the side, and more protection from Fred and Scott McTominay in midfield, United were more solid in defence, and had the wizardry of Fernandes to get them back into the game.
The Portuguese likes Goodison Park, having scored here last season in a 1-1 draw, and his header was well-taken after he found space in the Everton box.
Shaw, who took advantage of James Rodriguez failing to track back, also helped in United’s second by allowing Rashford to drift inside and support Fernandes for his sixth goal of the season.
Harry Maguire was much improved, but was involved in successive dramas around the hour mark when he had a penalty appeal turned down by the video assistant referee before taking out Digne with a hefty challenge despite getting the ball.
But Solskjaer, who could rightly point to further chances for Rashford, would have been relieved by Cavani’s injury-time goal as Everton searched for an equaliser.
The Uruguayan swept in from Fernandes’ pass to get off the mark and make it an almost perfect day for United and their under-fire manager.
The only concern was that Shaw and Rashford were both taken off because of injury.
Everton search for defensive answers as Pickford has mixed afternoon
Everton’s early-season form, where they won their first five league games, has quickly unravelled and despite making six changes from the side which lost to Newcastle last weekend, Ancelotti will have been disappointed his side failed to avoid defeat once more.
With Pickford, Rodriguez, Seamus Coleman, Mason Holgate, Digne and Bernard back, there was an improvement from the hosts, who began the game brightly.
The goal was direct but effective, something which Everton’s manager has called for.
But there will be questions about Everton’s defending as they let Fernandes drift into the penalty area for the equaliser and how they then conceded again seven minutes later.
The visitors, like Southampton before them, took advantage of the weak spot down Everton’s right hand side, where Rodriguez tends not to track back.
The Colombian, who returned from injury had a shot blocked but failed to impose his undoubted quality on the game, and the performance once again underlined the importance to the team of the suspended Richarlison.
Everton have never won a league game without the Brazilian in the side, following his arrival in 2018.
Pickford, who was told by Ancelotti to trust his instinct more in games, had a mixed afternoon.
He saved well from Rashford’s effort, but also nearly contributed to what would have been a poor goal after 59 minutes when he dropped Juan Mata’s free-kick before Maguire clipped it over the bar from close range.
In the end, it was not decisive, but if Everton have European hopes this season, their defence, Pickford included, is in need of improvement and they have now failed to keep a clean sheet in seven league games.
‘This was a really difficult, bad period for us’ – what they said
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to BBC Sport: “The kick-off time set us up to fail. We have been to Turkey, played loads of games this season already, we got back Thursday morning and we are playing Saturday lunchtime, it’s an absolute shambles.
“We got back on Thursday morning at 4am, what is the problem with playing on Sunday? Look after the players, we already have too many injuries in the Premier League, not just my players but others too.”
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti to BBC Sport: “We have to stabilise the defence, this is for sure, but it is not a problem individually – it is collective work and this is absolutely normal.
“It is fortunate that there is an international break This was a really difficult, bad period for us and I hope that is finished. I hope we can come back from the international break in the way we started this season.”
The best of the stats
- Manchester United are just the third team to win three consecutive Premier League away games after conceding the first goal, after Leeds United (October 1999) and Tottenham Hotspur (December 2013).
- They have now won 17 Premier League away games at Goodison Park, the most victories for a visiting side at a specific venue in the competition.
- It’s the first time Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti has lost three league games in a row since November 2006 with AC Milan.
- Both sides scored with their first shots on target in this match, with Everton’s goal in the 19th minute their only effort on target in the whole match.
- Manchester United’s first two goals in this match both had 15+ passes in the build-up, the first time the Red Devils have scored 2+ such goals in the same league match since November 2016 (vs Swansea).
- Fernandes has had a hand in 15 Premier League goals in his 10 Premier League away matches (10 goals, 5 assists); it’s the most goal involvements a player has had in their first 10 games on the road in the competition, while only Kevin Phillips scored as many (10).
- He has now scored 18 goals in all competitions for Manchester United, with his equalising strike today his first headed goal for the club.
- Cavani (33y 267d) became the oldest player to score his first Premier League goal since Zlatan Ibrahimovic in August 2016 (34y 316d).
Everton travel to Fulham on Saturday, 21 November (15:00 GMT kick-off), while Manchester United host West Brom at Old Trafford on the same day, also at 15:00 GMT.