United manager Jose Mourinho was keen to end a sequence of three draws and they were able to achieve it with the minimum of fuss against Sam Allardyce’s toothless hosts.
Anthony Martial compensated for the absence of Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a superb curling effort from 20 yards in the 57th minute after former United star Wayne Rooney lost possession.
Everton barely posed a threat apart from an Oumar Niasse header off target, and United wrapped up a win that reduces Manchester City’s lead to 12 points before they play Watford on Tuesday when Jesse Lingard struck a brilliant shot from outside the area beyond Jordan Pickford.
Mourinho was missing Lukaku, ruled out of a return to Everton after suffering a heavy knock to the head against Southampton, and Ibrahimovic, who has a knee injury, but they were still far too strong for Everton.
The United manager has cut a downbeat figure after a winless run of four matches, which included the shock League Cup loss at Bristol City and Premier League draws against Leicester City, Burnley and Southampton.
This, however, was an untroubled return to second place in the table apart from a couple of moments of anxiety after Martial put them ahead just before the hour.
In a match short on high excitement, it needed moments of magic to add a layer of gloss to a colourless occasion and Martial provided it, along with the prolific Lingard.
Something special was required to beat Everton’s outstanding goalkeeper Pickford and it duly arrived via the quick feet and precise finish into the top corner from Martial after a neat pass from Paul Pogba, who was again involved later on when the rapidly maturing Lingard added a stylish second.
United’s chase of City at the summit is surely forlorn but the battle for the top four looks increasingly competitive, so this was an important victory.
Everton creatively bankrupt
Everton manager Allardyce’s problems are the same ones Ronald Koeman had before he was sacked in October – a horribly imbalanced squad with weaknesses exposed by the inexplicable failure to replace leading scorer Lukaku after his move to United.
Everton have ground out grim goalless draws against Chelsea and West Brom while they were spared defeat in the Merseyside derby at Liverpool by Rooney’s late penalty.
Allardyce has addressed defensive weaknesses with his customary zeal but Everton will continue to struggle to score until he can bring in a striker to offer serious threat.
Everton hope to secure a deal for Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun – and the mounting body of evidence suggests this needs to be done as a matter of urgency.
Niasse is willing but very limited while Dominic Calvert-Lewin is in need of a rest after taking on such a heavy workload this season.
Everton’s fans demonstrated some impatience when Rooney was replaced by James McCarthy – who briefly made a difference before Lingard settled matters – with jeers from some sections.
Allardyce’s pragmatic approach is being accepted for now, and any criticism must be placed in the context of his lack of potent attacking options, but it is a serious problem he must tackle swiftly.
Man of the match: Paul Pogba (Man United)
Everton manager Sam Allardyce: “If you gift the ball back to the team like United then they punish you. Here’s some analysis for the lads on Match of the Day if you want: For the first goal they back off, back off and back off.
“We needed to put pressure on United and we didn’t. Martial takes the ball and lifts the shot with no blue shirt trying to close him down or tackle him. We have to avoid unforced errors, cut balls out and have to be consistent or a team like United will punish you.
“It’s a shame what happened in last five minutes at Bournemouth and today. Up to then a magnificent performance from everybody, but we need to bring a stop to the run of bad results.”
United just keep on beating Everton – the stats
- This was Manchester United’s 35th Premier League win against Everton – this is more than any other team against any other opponent in the competition.
- Anthony Martial has been directly involved in six goals in his last five appearances against Everton in all competitions (four goals, two assists).
- Paul Pogba has been involved in 10 goals in 12 Premier League games this season (three goals, seven assists) – one more than he was involved in the whole of last season in 30 games.
- Since the start of December, only Harry Kane (eight) has scored more Premier League goals than Jesse Lingard (six).
- Only Romelu Lukaku (15) has scored more goals for Man Utd in all competitions this season than Jesse Lingard (10).
- Jesse Lingard has been involved in 11 Premier League goals this season (seven goals, four assists) and averaged a goal involvement every 84 minutes. Before 2017-18, his average was one every 378 minutes in the Premier League.
- Jose Mourinho has lost none of his 12 Premier League meetings with Allardyce (W9 D3 L0) – the manager he’s faced the most in the competition without losing.
- Of sides to have played both this season and last season in the competition, Manchester United have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League since Mourinho was appointed as their manager in the summer of 2016 (45 in 60 games).
- This is the third time this season that Everton have failed to fire a shot on target in a Premier League match, two of which have come in the last four games (Chelsea & Man Utd).
Everton face Liverpool at Anfield in the FA Cup on Friday at 19:55 GMT, before returning to Premier League action against Tottenham at Wembley on 13 January at 17:30.
United host Derby County in the cup on Friday, kicking off at 20:00. Their next league outing is on 15 January at home to Stoke at 20:00.