MANCHESTER: Manchester United thrashed Everton 4-0 after scoring three goals in the final 10 minutes on a miserable return to Old Trafford for Wayne Rooney in the Premier League yesterday. United was only leading through Antonio Valencia’s 4th-minute strike when Rooney, the former United captain, was substituted in the 82nd minute. Henrikh Mkhitaryan netted within a minute, Romelu Lukaku scored against his former club in the 89th and Anthony Martial slotted in a penalty in the second minute of stoppage time after Morgan Schneiderlin handled. United and Manchester City both have 13 points at the top of the table.
The defeat consigned Everton to a third consecutive league loss. Coupled with a Europa League group-stage opening defeat to Atalanta on Thursday, Everton has conceded 12 goals without reply in losing its last four games in all competitions. Rooney left United in the offseason after 13 years with Lukaku heading in the opposite direction across northwest England. While Rooney was given a warm reception, Lukaku was jeered by Everton fans on another bleak day for the Merseyside club that got off to a terrible start by conceding in the fourth minute. Nemanja Matic sent a sweeping pass across the 18-yard (meter) box that Valencia met with the outside of his boot, sending a half-volley past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in front of the elated Stretford End.
It was a strike of outstanding quality and allowed United to dictate the agenda, with Everton struggling to break through the lines and create a clear-cut chance until the 21st minute. Rooney hit a low, first-time shot across the face of goal on a sweeping attack that highlighted Everton’s growing presence in a game that should have got away from them after Michael Keane’s mistake. The United academy graduate’s wayward pass was cut out by Juan Mata, who put Lukaku through on goal only for the striker to put wide of his former club’s goal. Home celebrations turned to embarrassment when it clicked that Lukaku had missed the target, with the traveling support quickly going through a similar swing in emotions as Gylfi Sigurdsson slotted home unaware Tom Davies had been called offside. Pickford had to be alert as United pushed as halftime approached, but within a minute of the restart it was opposite number David De Gea in action as tenacious Rooney won the ball off Eric Bailly and got away a close-range effort.
The United goalkeeper stood tall to deny Sigurdsson as the men in blue pushed for a leveler and the atmosphere Mourinho called for in his program notes began to wane. Mata raised the noise a few notches by sending a free-kick off the post, while Jesse Lingard, on for the ineffective Marcus Rashford, was proving a handful as United looked to put the match to bed. Matic came close from distance before Lingard’s penalty claims were waved away, with Rooney then leaving to a standing ovation from the Old Trafford faithful. The final eight minutes made uncomfortable viewing for Rooney on the Everton bench. Mkhitaryan swept a low shot past Pickford after being put through by Lukaku, who was cheered by the travelling support after hitting a free-kick into the wall. However, the former Everton striker continued into the box and fired home, cupping his ears to the fans that once adored him. Sandro Ramirez’s attempt at a consolation was well stopped by De Gea and things would soon get worse for Everton. Ex-United midfielder Morgan Schneilderlin handled when Martial cutback, with the substitute scoring the resulting spotkick in stoppage time. — AP