Eurosport - Sat, 20 Feb 14:41:00 2010
Two young Everton substitutes were the heroes, Dan Gosling and Jack Rodwell both coming off the bench to see off United with second half goals after Diniyar Bilyaletdinov had cancelled out Dimitar Berbatov's opener before the break.
Everton have now beaten the top two in successive games, following their triumph over Chelsea in their last Premier League outing, and maximum points from their last two matches have done the world of good to their late charge for a Europa League spot.
For United, a sixth defeat meant they gave Chelsea the chance to go four points clear - duly taken by Carlo Ancelotti's men who beat Wolves 2-0, while Arsenal are just two points behind United after beating Sunderland by the same scoreline.
A tight opening soon gave way to an open and entertaining first half as both teams enjoyed spells of possession and fashioned chances to find the back of the net.
The first fell United's way on 12 minutes following a lovely passing move involving Antonio Valencia, Ji-sung Park, Berbatov and Wayne Rooney, who was returning once again to the club where he started his career. The England striker eventually laid the ball off to Darren Fletcher but the Scot blazed well over Tim Howard's bar.
Two minutes later Everton had a strong penalty appeal turned down as Rooney appeared to shove John Heitinga in the back as the Dutchman rose to meet a corner. Referee Howard Webb waved away the claims.
The incident seemed to spur the hosts on and moments later Louis Saha - who, along with Rooney and Phil Neville, was facing his former club - brought Edwin Van der Sar into action with a crisp strike from the edge of the box.
Everton were looking dangerous but United are a force to be reckoned with on the break and they proved it once again when they took the lead on 16 minutes.
Berbatov finished clinically in off the underside of the bar after putting Valencia's low cross under immediate control.
It would have been easy for Everton to wilt after the set back - so many teams do when faced with the champions - but David Moyes's side are made of stronger stuff. It took just three minutes for them to hit back and draw back on level terms.
And what a goal it was that restored parity, Bilyaletdinov beating Van der Sar at his near post with a terrific drive from the edge of the box following a bad error of judgement in the air from Jonny Evans.
Bilyaletdinov could have grabbed a second five minutes later when Saha outfoxed the United defence by stepping over Leighton Baines's cross into the box, but the Russian ballooned his effort way over the cross bar.
But the best chance of the half fell Landon Donovan's way on 36 minutes; again it was spurned, the American mistiming his swing at the ball from close range, allowing a grateful Van der Sar to collect. The opportunity came to Donovan after the ball cannoned of Wes Brown's arm, but again referee Webb dismissed Everton's claims for a penalty.
The opening second half was decidedly less energetic, although United looked the more likely to score after the restart - they had not, after all, dropped any points from winning positions this season.
Fletcher fired just wide of the post on 51 minutes before Berbatov put a header wide two minutes later.
But as the half wore on, Everton rose to the challenge and when Gosling made his entrance on 70 minutes, he soon found himself in the thick of the action, glancing a header wide of the far post with virtually his first touch.
It took little longer for Gosling to make his most telling contribution, the 20-year-old firing confidently past Van der Sar from Steven Pienaar's cross to give Everton the lead.
Unsurprisingly, United pushed for an equaliser and Rooney went close to getting one over his old club with a free-kick that was deflected inches wide of the post.
But Rodwell was to end any hope United had of getting something from the game with a superb individual effort in the 90th minute, just two minutes after his introduction as a substitution to eat up some valuable seconds.
The 18-year-old picked the ball up before gliding past Evans and slotting past Van der Sar to send the Goodison faithful into raptures and seal just Everton's fourth victory over United in 36 Premier League meetings.