The early Premier League kick-off at Old Trafford on Saturday saw an entertaining encounter between Manchester United and injury-ravaged Everton. The Red Devils were big favourites for the victory and probably would have been even if the Toffees had Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Seamus Coleman available.
The result was yet another step in the right direction for Everton’s head coach Rafa Benitez, who had to make a strong start due to his former allegiances to the red side of Merseyside. The Spanish boss is proving his doubters wrong, that’s for sure.
A strong away display
Last season Everton produced some really good results on their travels under former head coach Carlo Ancelotti. However, it felt as though the Toffees were hanging on to results and defending most of the games. At Old Trafford, Everton did defend well, but looked an attacking threat, despite the absence of the missing players. They were not over-cautious like under Ancelotti and even saw a late goal from Yerry Mina disallowed by VAR.
If the Merseysider’s can replicate that sort of display in the majority of their away games, they will continue to be a big danger on their travels.
The potential bargains of the season
Without Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison the attacking responsibility fell to summer signings Demarai Gray, Andros Townsend and Salmon Rondon. The former two are proving to be two of the transfer bargains of the season.
Both were involved in the equaliser, as Gray broke quickly and found the excellent Abdoulaye Doucoure, who slipped Townsend in and the former Crystal Palace winger fired low beyond David De Gea in the United goal.
The goal means that Townsend has now scored five goals in his first nine outings for Everton in all competitions. It took him 79 games to match his current goal tally at Palace. The free signing is enjoying his time on Merseyside and with every game is proving his worth.
Gray is looking more impressive with every game too. The 25-year-old has struggled for consistency at his previous clubs, despite undoubted talent. At Old Trafford, he looked highly dangerous throughout for the Toffees, showing great composure on the ball.
After multiple mistakes in the transfer market in previous summers, it seems that austerity has worked in the Merseysider’s favour this summer. The performances of Gray and Townsend show that it is not about the fee, but signing the right players. At this point, Gray and Townsend look to be the right signings in a summer that seemed to offer nothing but doom and gloom for Everton fans.
Everton looking promising under Benitez
For all the connections with the team across the park, the main concern from most Evertonian’s was whether Rafa Benitez was just at the club for a convenient payday near his Wirral home.
However, from his first press conference, he has carried himself in a highly professional way. The doubts over whether his coaching skills have waned in recent years have also been disproven already in the early months of his reign on Merseyside.
It seems that the majority of Everton fans are now behind Benitez. On the evidence so far, the Spanish head coach may just be the unlikely head coach to finally move the team forward.
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Will Rafa Benitez continue to prove his doubters wrong at Everton?