Three Points: Manchester United 2-1 Everton -- Di Maria shines again
MANCHESTER, England -- A trio of thoughts on Manchester United vs. Everton from ESPN FC's Richard Jolly.
Di Maria dominates
Pity poor Tony Hibbert. Everton's veteran right-back has only started two league games since 2012 and his immediate opponents have been Raheem Sterling and Angel Di Maria.
It pitted Evertonian understudy against the man of the match from the Champions League final. Predictably, it was a rather one-sided duel. Di Maria dominated. If Seamus Coleman was fully fit, Hibbert probably wouldn't have played. As it was, he was subjected to a trial by the most expensive player in the history of English football.
United were at their most threatening on the left. They have been since Di Maria arrived. Perhaps the only surprise was that when the breakthrough came, it was the result of a temporary job swap between Juan Mata and Di Maria. The Spaniard arrived on the left to meet Rafael Da Silva's deep cross and tee up the Argentine, who arrived to supply the assured finish.
It was his third goal in four games and after Louis van Gaal highlighted Di Maria's ability to create when signing him, the former Real Madrid man has proved as capable of scoring. He ended up with an assist, too, albeit probably when he was trying to score a second. In between, there were attempts to supply his teammates. He delivered several teasing crosses while there was one beautiful backheel flick to Radamel Falcao, who rather ruined it by skewing his volley wide.
Thus far, the most expensive of United's six summer signings also looks the best. Wherever his side finish this season, Di Maria could conclude the campaign with plenty of plaudits and one of the individual awards.
As for his victim? Whatever other qualities the limited Hibbert lacks, determination is not among them. He made a rare foray into the United box to win a penalty when Luke Shaw challenged him. Hibbert is scarcely known for his attacking efforts but earned two assists in Everton's 4-4 draw at Old Trafford in 2012. He was denied another, however, when David de Gea saved Leighton Baines' spot kick.
Falcao gets off the mark
It was a tale of two new signings. One came from Real Madrid, the other seemingly wanted to go to the Bernabeu. One couldn't stop scoring. The other couldn't start. Then, with a prod of Falcao's right boot, they were twinned on the scoresheet.
The Colombian's first goal was greeted with relief as much as joy. He was the finisher extraordinaire for Porto, Atletico Madrid and Monaco. He had started with a flourish for each club. Not so at United. By the second half of his fourth game, his attempts at goal seemed to be getting progressively worse. The first, from a Di Maria cross, was a header that drew a fine diving save from Tim Howard. Come the second half and he was skewing a shot wide. This was more like the stereotypical image of the supposedly profligate Danny Welbeck, the man who exited Old Trafford as Falcao arrived.
But the predatory instincts remain. He was lurking with intent in the penalty area when Di Maria dragged a shot wide. It became the most penetrative of passes. Falcao latched on to it, redirected it into the Everton net and wheeled away in celebration.
Truth be told, he had not played particularly well but strikers are judged on their goals and Falcao had not just scored one but saved another, clearing Phil Jagielka's header off his own line. It prevented Everton from taking the lead. Perhaps more significantly for United's future, the scorer of 155 in his 200 games for his three previous European clubs opened his account in England.
De Gea outstanding as Baines loses his record
Records are made to be broken. Perfect runs end. So it was for Baines, who lost his place in the 100 percent club. The Evertonian can no longer boast he has converted every penalty he has taken in the Premier League. Not after De Gea's stop on the stroke of half-time. His first 14 spot kicks had all nestled in the net. This was parried to safety.
Yet there was the right sort of response. Ten minutes into the second half, Baines delivered the cross for Everton's equaliser. Steven Naismith flew in to head level. It was a reminder that the England international remains as creative as any player in his position in the division. Many of Everton's goals involve him, one way or another, and much as David Moyes made many mistakes in his ill-fated spell as United manager, pursuing Baines was not one. The error was to submit bids Everton deemed "insulting and derisory."
His presence added to the subplots of the day. Indeed his penalty was conceded -- albeit unfortunately because the teenager appeared to win the ball -- by the left-back United did belatedly sign, Shaw. And while De Gea's first penalty save for United was from a future teammate, Robin van Persie, in 2011, this denied a man who could have been a colleague.
A third left-back played a part, too. Deep into added time, Bryan Oviedo, scorer of Everton's 2013 winner at Old Trafford, let fly from 20 yards and De Gea made a magnificent save. Without his defiance, the Merseysiders would surely have departed with at least one point, if not three.
De Gea probably deserves the man of the match award -- Di Maria said as much afterwards -- for his trio of fine saves.
Richard Jolly covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @RichJolly.