1) We’re scoring goals from midfield
A goal apiece four minutes apart for Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera in the first half emphasised United’s current formation as a side reliant on attack from midfield. Van Gaal’s chosen system of 4-2-3-1 has seen every advantage of a cultured midfield utilised and some brilliant football played that has recently ventured beyond simply possession play. Herrera’s headed goal – the first United have scored this season – underlined Van Gaal’s philosophy that sees the ball slotted around the middle and then switched from centre to the side which allows the central midfielders to break forward with the attack.
2) Rooney breaks his duck, looks back in form
This scoring form in midfield coupled with Martial’s frightening accuracy has done much to alleviate the pressure on misfiring skipper Wayne Rooney to find the net. Although his form has seen him drop deep and been bemoaned by most reds, Rooney’s performance against his former club reminded them that he is capable of. He made direct runs at defenders whereas in previous games his tendency to drop deep saw him hit a barrier of opposing players before even reaching the penalty area. His second league goal this term on 62 minutes was sweetly taken and broke a duck spanning 18 away games. With the Manchester derby next Sunday after a midweek trip to Moscow, his apparent resurgence in form could have come just at the right time.
3) De Gea saves games as well as goals
While Sunday’s back pages might be filled with reports of Rooney ending his goal drought or yet another sterling performance from Chris Smalling, there can be no doubt about David De Gea’s contribution to an emphatic away win.
Saves from Romelu Lukaku and twice from Ross Barkley kept the game from going down a very different route and cemented a solid win away and his second clean sheet in the league this season.
While most were just happy his purported move to Real Madrid suffered any form of sabotage last summer, the sceptics were more critical of his mindset and willingness to play. De Gea has since reassured fans of his commitment and his clean sheet at Goodison underlined his sacrosanct ranking as United’s number one behind a watertight back four.
4) Marcos Rojo is Luke Shaw’s direct replacement
Perhaps the only positive to have come from Luke Shaw’s cruel and untimely injury which truncated a rich run of form by 20-year-old is Marcos Rojo’s extended run in the side as his replacement at left back. At Goodison the Argentine was a mountain down the left flank and thwarted attacks from first Aaron Lennon and then Gerard Deulofeu. Physically imposing and commanding at full back, it looked as though a freight train wouldn’t pass United’s number 5 on that particular Saturday. Going forward too he was exceptional and the ball for Herrera to head home for United’s second on 22 minutes was nothing short of sublime. His performance provides piece of mind for fans who were apprehensive Darmian might have to be drafted in that position and thus two in-form full backs having their season disrupted by the injury.
5) We can score from crosses and set pieces
Balls into the box have seldom been much cause for concern for opposing sides but on Saturday United proved they can actually get it right with crosses from out wide. Schneiderlin’s first goal in a United shirt came after a well worked corner and Herrera met a brilliant ball from Rojo to make it two. Both goals appeased the frustration brought about when United usually make a hash of set pieces or crosses in general. The success from wide is reassuring especially with the formation currently employed.