Manchester United’s miserable season continued on Saturday as Everton boosted their Premier League survival hopes with a 1-0 win over Ralf Rangnick’s side at Goodison Park.
Out of all cup competitions, United were looking to earn a victory that would have moved them level on points with Tottenham Hotspur in fourth.
But their task was made all the more difficult when Anthony Gordon gave Everton a first-half lead.
For the Toffees, hovering above the relegation zone, the nerves showed after the break, but the visitors lacked the quality to get back into the match despite a wealth of attacking options on the pitch.
A late Cristiano Ronaldo effort was as close as United came to a leveller as they slipped to a loss that leaves the team with the most English top flight titles ever seventh in the standings.
Everton defended for their lives at the death, hanging on for a precious victory.
“We don’t score, we don’t even create proper chances to score,” United goalkeeper David De Gea told Sky Sports. “I don’t know what to say, to be honest.
“We’re not good enough, that’s for sure. It’s going to be very difficult now to be in the top four.
“Of course it’s not the perfect atmosphere. They were tired, they were nervous, but they keep going and keep fighting. They had more desire than us, which is not acceptable. It’s very sad to lose today (Saturday).”
Brought back into the United starting line-up, Marcus Rashford looked lively on his 200th Premier League start early on, forcing two good saves out of home goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
The groans became more audible around Goodison as the half wore on, with their error-prone team misplacing pass after pass.
The hosts did not muster an attack until the 27th minute, but they got the stroke of luck they needed as Gordon’s effort was deflected past De Gea off United captain Harry Maguire’s back and in, as the home fans roared with delight.
Buoyed by their break, Brazilian striker Richarlison found the confidence to send a dipping strike towards goal, again aided by a deflection, which forced De Gea into an agile stop.
With their season in danger of fizzling out, United needed a response in the second half. Bruno Fernandes picked out a brilliant pass for Rashford, but he failed to connect when through on goal.
For all their possession in the second half — United had almost 75 per cent of the ball after the interval — they could not find the killer pass, with a Paul Pogba effort from distance and Ronaldo’s late snap shot their only real opportunities of note.
Rangnick rang the changes, but it had little effect, as United meander towards another disappointing season finish — five years without a trophy come the end of this campaign, and nine since their last league triumph.
Everton will now be focusing on prolonging their 68-year stay in the top flight.
Striker Chris Wood’s second-half penalty gave Newcastle United a 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday to further banish any lingering relegation fears.
Newcastle had lost their previous three games, reviving jitters they may be dragged back into the battle against the drop as the season heads towards its finale.
But with Newcastle pressing hard against a surprisingly lacklustre Wolves, Woods drew a foul from goalkeeper Jose Sa before thumping home the spot kick in the 72nd minute.
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