Xenia Sports – London
A Bruno Fernandes double eased some of the pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United ended a terrible week with a 3-1 victory at Everton.
The Portugal international has been the standout performer for the club since his arrival in January and he proved his worth again at Goodison Park with two goals in seven first-half minutes as the visitors had to come from behind yet again.
Victory avoided the ignominy of United’s worst start to a league season since 1989-90 and was a welcome boost after defeats to Arsenal and Istanbul Basaksehir in the last seven days as Fernandes made it 13 goals in 21 Premier League matches.
But it was far from plain sailing with centre-back Victor Lindelof, one of four changes from their embarrassing Champions League defeat, dominated in the air by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, which was how Everton were able to open the scoring through Bernard.
However, substitute Edinson Cavani’s first goal for United in stoppage time gave the scoreline a more favourable outlook.
Both sides had chances to score before they actually did with their first shots on target: Calvert-Lewin heading just over while Anthony Martial bundled a shot wide and Marcus Rashford’s looping effort dropping just over the crossbar.
When Everton did make the breakthrough it was straight out of the ‘Route One’ playbook.
Calvert-Lewin outjumped Lindelof – a recurring theme through the afternoon – to knock Jordan Pickford’s long punt into the path of Bernard, who cut in on his right foot to roll a shot inside David De Gea’s right-hand post.
It meant the only time United have scored the first goal in the Premier League this season continues to be against Tottenham – which they went on to lose 6-1.
That statistic proves they have had plenty of practice at coming from behind and that is what they did here with two Fernandes goals inside eight minutes, both assisted by some pretty lax defending despite Mason Holgate making his first appearance after a pre-season injury.
Luke Shaw swung over a cross and Fernandes’ running leap in between Michael Keane and Holgate allowed him to beat Pickford with a header.
His second was more a result of good fortune, with more suspect defending from the hosts, as his cross intended for Rashford missed the head of his team-mate and crept in off the far post with Pickford wrong-footed by the United striker’s presence.
In his programme notes Ancelotti had praised Rashford for his campaign on free school meals – saying the England international “is using his platform to make a meaningful and lasting change” – and the joke on social media was the ball had gone in off the halo of the recently MBE recipient.
But the goal was clearly Fernandes’, his 10th in as many away league matches.
Everton could have been ahead before then had Lucas Digne not drilled a shot against the outside of the post with Calvert-Lewin waiting for the cross.
Pickford, back in the team after being rested last week, had been fully supported by Ancelotti but had been told to be more instinctive with his goalkeeping.
That was not the case when the England number one tried to keep alive a second-half Juan Mata free-kick but dropped the ball and took a wild waist-high swing at it, connecting only with Harry Maguire.
VAR reviewed the incident but Pickford escaped punishment after it appeared Maguire had made the first foul but it was reminiscent of the goalkeeper’s last outing on this ground when his reckless challenge put Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk out for several months.
Everton improved late in the half when Alex Iwobi replaced Gylfi Sigurdsson and playmaker James Rodriguez, clearly not 100 per cent fit after missing last weekend, dropped deeper into midfield but the Colombia international was a long way from his best and could not conjure an equaliser.
It left Ancelotti having to spend the international break pondering how his early-season pace-setters have taken just one point from four matches having conceded at least twice in their last five matches.
Solskjaer, however, can breathe a little easier but with just three Premier League wins in seven matches he is by no means in the comfort zone.