SPORT

Manchester United 2-1 Everton: Ángel Di María And Leighton Baines Make Wingers In-Vogue Again

05/10/2014 14:31 BST | Updated 05/10/2014 15:59 BST
Michael Regan via Getty Images
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 05: Angel Di Maria of Manchester United celebrates scoring the first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford on October 5, 2014 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Tony Hibbert was in deep conversation with Muhamed Bešić as early as the sixth minute. Bešić, maybe not the only one baffled by a Scouse accent this week, trotted over to Roberto Martínez 18 minutes later for clarification. How to deal with Luke Shaw and Ángel di María? They had both provided ammunition for a saved Radamel Falcao header and a Robin van Persie volley in the opening 10 minutes. Even at 0-0, the pair couldn't resist showboating on a day they threatened to be as dynamic a duo as Ryan Giggs and Denis Irwin's 90s axis.

In blue, Leighton Baines, galvanised by his first ever saved Premier League penalty, responded with swashbuckling vigour. Baines and Shaw, despite not being in direct opposition, sparred like international competitors until the latter was forced off through injury. Everton's left-back was as troublesome for United as Di María was for the Toffees.

"When you play with a diamond you need to keep your positions and need to keep pressure on the full-backs and in the second-half the danger came from Baines," Van Gaal stressed. "That's why I changed Falcao and Wilson and he had to play more on the right side."

Wingers are back in vogue at Old Trafford. David Moyes bemoaned the lack of world-class players and had he had it his way, Baines would be lining up in red. His de facto replacement Shaw, was a reckless thrill to watch, despite the ignominious transgression of conceding a penalty to Hibbert.

David de Gea rightly earned the man of the match award for becoming the first Premier League goalkeeper to thwart Baines from 12 yards and two stunning world-class saves, but it would be disingenuous to focus such a madcap match on the goalie. Martínez, relishing the flank fest, introduced Bryan Oviedo to supplement Baines.

leighton baines

United struggled to contain one-time target Baines

The irony was United opened the scoring from the right wing, where Rafael da Silva's crossing had been erratic. Phil Jagielka's hooked clearance fell to Juan Mata, who serenely cushioned the ball for Di María to slot into the corner of Tim Howard's net. Da Silva, purportedly the full-back, was playing further ahead of the maligned Antonio Valencia, for whom a blocked cross represents a positive outcome these days. The canny tactic had paid off.

"What more can you ask for?" Louis van Gaal responded when asked about Di María's impact. The Argentinean has now scored three and assisted three in five games.

Eight days in football is an eternity and Patrick McNair, gangly and uncomfortable against West Ham's bruise brothers last week, refused to be bullied by Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian striker preyed on the 19-year-old and was visibly eager for Everton to launch more aerial balls but was left disappointed until the 39th minute. He controlled Leighton Baines' curling through ball expertly but blazed the ball into the Scoreboard End.

United are a giver of chances, though, and Shaw rashly slid in on the marauding Hibbert to concede a stoppage-time penalty, United's seventh concession in the area this year. De Gea hadn't saved a penalty in regulation time since August 2011 yet he guessed correctly and denied Baines' 15th Premier League spotkick with a dive to his right.

luke shaw

Shaw experienced an ambivalent second start

Falcao, energetic but profligate, wasted a fourth opportunity eight yards from goal with an off-target mishap masked by John Stones' block. Judging by the Colombian's anguished expression, he was acutely aware of how uncomfortable United have defended slender leads and Steven Naismith punished him four minutes later with a headed equaliser. Naturally, from a pinpoint Baines cross.

Then Falcao's moment arrived in the 62nd minute. Similarly to Mata's and Ander Herrera's recent strikes against Queens Park Rangers and Leicester last month, Di María's dragged shot was finished by a teammate as Falcao pounced predatorily on Stones' shoulder. Perhaps deliberately, he milked the acclaim in front of United's K Stand contingent that first serenaded him on his debut and his 74th minute withdrawal for James Wilson was dubious, considering Van Persie's lethargy. The captain's privilege extends to the Dutchman, too.

De Gea superbly stopped Osman's stoppage-time effort, Baines whipped in another teasing set-piece, Blackett blocked heroically from Gareth Barry and De Gea magnificently tipped Oviedo's volley over. Stones' injury signalled a nerve-wracking break in play with one more Baines delivery to face. Lukaku headed it over and the Stretford End let out a euphoric sigh of relief.

"Two world-class saves," a United fan chirped at a journalist. And two-world class left-wingers.