LONDON • Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said his side's clinical 3-0 victory at Everton has boosted confidence ahead of the midweek trip to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.
First-half goals from Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera and a strike by Everton old boy Wayne Rooney gave United the spoils in a one-sided Premier League contest, at a Goodison Park mourning the loss of former manager Howard Kendall on Saturday.
United had crashed to a 3-0 defeat at Arsenal before the international break and van Gaal was thrilled by their return to form, which saw Rooney net only his second league goal of the campaign.
"It was a very good performance and I said to my players that I am very proud of them because it is one of our best matches," said the Dutchman, whose side tackle CSKA in the Russian capital on Wednesday. "We needed that because Everton are a very good team. We controlled the game for 80 minutes and only when the referee gave free kicks around the 60-metre mark were Everton dangerous, because (Ross) Barkley can take free kicks.
"I have seen a lot of individual players today playing very well but that's also because the result is very good. We got more confidence and you could see that in the second half."
The match was tinged with sadness after news broke before kick-off that Kendall, Everton's most successful and most popular manager, had died at the age of 69 following a heart attack.
Fans applauded throughout a pre-match moment of remembrance and players from both sides sported black arm-bands. But there were few echoes of the famous passing style inculcated by Kendall as Everton failed to impose themselves on United.
The Manchester side took the lead in the 18th minute when Steven Naismith's clearance fell to Marcos Rojo. The Argentinian defender's shot deflected off Chris Smalling and into the path of the unmarked Schneiderlin, who calmly hit the ball past goalkeeper Tim Howard from 15 metres.
Slack Everton defending was to blame again four minutes later when Seamus Coleman clattered into Anthony Martial, which gave Rojo the space down the left wing he needed to whip in a cross that Herrera converted clinically.
Everton responded impressively after the break, but they had precious little end product and Rooney sealed United's win in the 62nd minute, charging through on goal to beat Howard comfortably.
It was the United skipper's first away goal in the top flight since November, ending a run of 17 games without netting on the road.
It was also Rooney's 187th goal, tying Andy Cole for second-most in Premier League history, behind Alan Shearer (260). And he hit back at critics who have questioned his scoring record.
When asked whether he considered his drought to be over, Rooney replied: "It depends what the press think, they call it what they like. What matters is what my manager and team-mates think.
"I'm a strong man, I've had it throughout my career. I just have to keep working hard and try to help the team be successful."
Everton manager Roberto Martinez refused to make excuses for his side's defeat and said they had not been unduly affected by Kendall's death. "We were shocked at the news," he said. "I wouldn't want to think (that it affected the players). It was really sad, but we wanted to change it around and make it a real celebration."