Anthony Martial’s close-range strike kept Manchester United’s Champions League chase on track as they beat Everton 1-0.
Bobby Charlton saw Old Trafford’s South Stand renamed in his honour during a heartfelt pre-match tribute, a spine-tingling celebration that Martial ensured would not be followed by frustration as United ran out winners against Everton.
It had looked set to be an anti-climactic afternoon after a 10th goalless first half in 15 Premier League matches at Old Trafford, only for Martial to lift the mood by scoring with United’s first shot on target.
United’s 1,000th Premier League goal at Old Trafford was far from a classic, but it had Charlton celebrating in the stand now carrying his name and moved Louis van Gaal’s men up to fifth, back within a point of Manchester City in the final Champions League spot.
The 1-0 win at their rivals before the international break breathed new life into the Red Devils’ top-four hopes and Van Gaal, unsurprisingly, kept with the same side that won at Etihad Stadium.
Everton, looking to avoid a third straight league defeat, made two changes at Old Trafford and the recalled Gerard Deulofeu quickly looked to repay Roberto Martinez’s faith, with a jinking run into the area coming in-between several threatening crosses.
The visitors were looking more confident in possession and only intelligent defending from Daley Blind prevented a Romelu Lukaku backheel putting Aaron Lennon through.
The Belgium striker has been linked with a summer move to Old Trafford and proved a nuisance for the home side, nodding wide before chasing down a ball that David de Gea just beat him to.
Everton’s defence were not having to deal with the same threat, but John Stones, the visitors’ other change, showed impressive timing to prevent Martial getting a shot away after collecting Marcus Rashford’s deft flick.
Neither side were able to muster a shot on target during a drab first half and only a last-ditch Blind intervention prevented Lukaku changing that in the 49th minute, having turned and shot from close range.
United academy graduate Tom Cleverley was next to threaten before United belatedly got their first shot on Joel Robles’ goal.
It was an opportunity they made count as fine play from Juan Mata and Rashford put through half-time introduction Tim Fosu-Mensah, whose low cross took a slight nick before Martial turned it home.
Phil Jagielka’s powerful header shortly after rattled the crossbar and the home support, but United were now more of an attacking threat, with Jesse Lingard just unable to get a telling touch on a Juan Mata cross.
Martinez’s side were struggling to breakdown Van Gaal’s men and were attacking with less regularity, although they had a few chances after Blind’s injury forced a defensive reshuffle.
Jagielka’s snapshot after the ball went loose at a corner was saved by De Gea and the stretching Fosu-Mensah cleared a dangerous Seamus Coleman effort as United held firm against the side they hope to soon meet at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-finals.