Marcus Rashford is a shoo-in for all player of the year shortlists if he continues to put in performances like this. The No 10 was the creative force behind Antony’s opener and Conor Coady’s own goal before scoring a stoppage-time penalty that came after Alejandro Garnacho was yanked down and which ensured Manchester United’s passage into the next round.
Of his star act, Erik ten Hag said: “Again, great performance, Marcus was the one who went in front and showed the confidence and the belief and good movements behind, taking the players on and for 90 minutes was a threat. When he keeps focus like that I am sure he can keep this process going.”
Frank Lampard arrived in need of a win to try to save his job but left withhis future still hanging by a thread. Everton next host Southampton on Saturday week, whether Lampard will still be in charge then is open to question.
Of his chances of avoiding the sack, he said: “That’s not under my control. It’s not for me to focus on that. It’s for me to focus on what I saw tonight and that was a performance that every manager wants with the attitude of the team, and the focus. The focus now is Southampton.”
On three minutes United promised to be an irresistible juggernaut that would flatten their visitors but that never materialised. Casemiro tapped to Anthony Martial and the No 9 lost and then regained possession and found Rashford. He coasted along the left, gained half a yard on Ben Godfrey, and rolled the ball across for Antony to poke in.
Everton were confused and dazed and there was more. Martial shot wide, Antony raced down the right but his delivery disappointed, and Christian Eriksen took aim from distance.
Yet football, as the saying goes, can be a funny game and the latest evidence came in Everton’s farcical equaliser. Amadou Onana shrugged aside Casemiro and passed to Neil Maupay: the striker was virtually on the byline to the right of David De Gea’s left post but when he took aim the goalkeeper comically refused to take his left hand off from the upright to make the save, the ball went through his legs, and Coady forced it home.
De Gea has a sorry catalogue of howlers on the CV and this was one of the worst. With their equaliser Everton had given their manager the perfect boost in their first FA Cup meeting with United since the 2016 semi-final won by United en route to their last FA Cup win.
Both managers named strong XIs, with Martial, Rashford, Casemiro and Luke Shaw in Ten Hag’s lineup and Lampard picking his strongest team with the exception of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who had only recently returned after injury.
Raphaël Varane, another of Ten Hag’s main men, conjured a trick to leave Idrissa Gueye for dead before slicing in from the right and passing to Casemiro whose goalmouth chip was misdirected. So, too was an Eriksen drive – though only marginally – the latest in a bombardment of Everton which they survived to still be level at the break.
The usually uber-silky Casemiro was off the pace and was eventually replaced. The Brazilian began the second half with an errant pass that allowed Alex Iwobi to dart into United’s half. Tyrell Malacia dashed over to tackle but inadvertently injured the winger and Iwobi was carried off. “It’s ankle ligaments damage – we hope to a lesser extent,” said Lampard.
Another wide man – Rashford – was about to fashion his second assist. This time Séamus Coleman was the defender left twisted as the No 10 jinked past and hammered in a cross that Coady was unfortunate to turn past Pickford.
Here was Rashford’s latest gamechanging act in a season of them. It had a gleeful Stretford End informing Lampard he was “getting sacked in the morning”, and provoked a question: could United take control and, as the cliche goes, put their foot on the ball?
The answer was no. The spectacle remained akin to a hockey game that had Casemiro hassling near an Everton corner flag, then Coleman tipping the ball across United’s area and Vitalii Mykolenko going close to making it 2-2. Next Fernandes warmed Pickford’s fingers from 30 yards and Rashford drew Abdoulaye Doucouré into a yellow card.
De Gea went close to committing another clownish error under pressure from Calvert-Lewin, who had replaced Maupay. The striker would bundle into the net seconds later but Gray had been offside earlier in the move. Rashford’s spot-kick – he has now scored in five successive games – sealed United’s progress.