United find fresh drive in Fletcher

Manchester United 3 Everton 0

Sir Alex Ferguson's post-Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United side is still struggling to forge its own identity, but the consensus from within the home dressing room following victory over Everton was that progress is slowly being made.

Saturday's win wasn't one of the more exhilarating 3-0 victories ever to have been seen at Old Trafford and the initially spirited resistance of David Moyes' side quickly evaporated when Michael Carrick's goal gave the hosts a two-goal advantage midway through the second half.

For Ferguson's team, though, it was crucial that they recorded a convincing victory on their return to action following the defeat at Chelsea immediately before the international break. That they did so on the back of goals from three midfielders – Darren Fletcher, Carrick and Antonio Valencia – was particularly welcome at a time when even the manager was questioning the limitations of his side's goal threat.

Wayne Rooney has shouldered the main scoring responsibility with seven league goals backed up by Dimitar Berbatov's tally of just four. But Ferguson knows contributions must come from other departments of the team, particularly on a day when Rooney and Michael Owen offered glimpses that their partnership is coming together without ever appearing truly convincing in the penalty area.

Ronaldo's extraordinary mark of 67 goals in two seasons remains a freakish return for a winger, but while no individual in the current side is going to match that total, more is required from the midfield if United are to close the five-point gap between themselves and leaders Chelsea.

"The number of goals Ronaldo scored was extraordinary for a wide man," said Carrick. "You can't rely on the front two to do it every week. Thankfully we've started doing that and we need to chip in a few more. But as long as we are winning who scores is not an issue."

Ferguson's mantra has always been that it is not the defeat that matters, it is the response that follows a loss that counts the most. To that end, the manager could declare himself satisfied.

"It was very important we bounced back with a win after Chelsea," said Carrick. "We haven't scored an awful lot of goals at home to kill teams off so to see the second and third go in was nice. It meant we could play some football and relax but it was important we got back to winning ways really."

Fletcher was once again the driving force behind United's victory and the Scotland international capped an impressive display with a superbly taken volley in the first half. Carrick finished with a left-footer in the 67th minute before Valencia's deflected shot completed the scoring.

The result was justified, as Everton are a shadow of the team which finished fifth in the last two seasons. Their midfielder Johnny Heitinga, though, did see flaws in Ferguson's side. "It's not the Man Utd that won the Champions League but you can see they've got really good players and they play as a team," he said. " But if they win 3-0, what can I say?" Heitinga's main concern was the form of his own side and with just one win from their last six league games, Moyes' team are struggling to overcome the loss of Mikel Arteta and Phil Jagielka. They flickered briefly after the break when Moyes introduced Yakubu but later crumpled alarmingly.

They face Hull in midweek before next weekend's Merseyside derby in what could be a pivotal week. "In the past, and I don't use the word, but I think the word that's been used with Everton players is 'over-performing'," said Moyes. "I've always said they've performed at a good level and I'll protect the players all day long, but they have to stand up and be counted as well. And at the moment some of them are underperforming."

Manchester United (4-4-2): Van der Sar; R Da Silva (Scholes, 62), Brown, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Fletcher, Carrick (Gibson, 82), Giggs; Owen, Rooney (Obertan, 74). Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Anderson, Welbeck, De Laet.

Everton ( 4-5-1): Howard; Neill, Yobo, Distin, Baines; Gosling (Yakubu, h-t), Heitinga, Rodwell, Fellaini, Cahill (Hibbert, 82); Saha (Jo, 82). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Hibbert, Jo, Coleman, Duffy, Baxter.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Booked: Manchester United Da Silva, Carrick; Everton Cahill, Fellaini.

Man of the match: Fletcher.

Attendance: 75,169.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral