Manchester United moved ever closer to a return to the Champions League next season as Scott McTominay and Anthony Martial struck to deepen Everton’s relegation fears in a 2-0 win at Old Trafford.
Victory takes Erik ten Hag’s men up to third and opens up a six-point cushion over fifth-placed Tottenham.
But the three points came at a cost as Marcus Rashford hobbled off nine minutes from time, which could prove to be a major blow in the Red Devils quest for more silverware this season in the FA Cup and Europa League.
Only Jordan Pickford and some wayward United finishing prevented Everton from being on the end of a hiding even before the half-time whistle as the Toffees failed to do their bid to beat the drop any good.
Sean Dyche’s men remain outside the relegation zone only thanks to goal difference and could fall into the bottom three should other results go against them on Saturday.
Ten Hag bemoaned his side’s reliance on Rashford for goals after the England international hit his 28th of the season in a 1-0 win over Brentford on Wednesday.
But Rashford had a rare off day in front of goal before appearing to pull up with a groin injury.
Pickford got down low to his left to deny his international colleague when one-on-one before Rashford headed his next big chance wide.
Antony then struck the post from a well-worked corner and Aaron Wan Bissaka somehow skewed the rebound wide with the goal gaping.
Everton’s revival under Dyche has been built on defensive solidity but the Toffees were incapable of halting the steady flow of United chances.
Pickford stood tall to save another one-on-one from Antony and then rushed from his goal to block from Rashford.
The opening goal finally arrived on 36 minutes when McTominay, who has been in fine goalscoring form for Scotland, netted his first Premier League goal of the season.
Jadon Sancho picked out the midfielder’s run into the box and he smashed the ball past Pickford at his near post.
Everton stemmed the tide towards their own goal after the break but still needed their goalkeeper to keep the score down as Bruno Fernandes saw a header tipped over.
United’s inability to turn their dominance into goal highlighted their need for a new number nine, but Martial’s return to fitness is a welcome boost heading into the final two months of the season.
An error from Seamus Coleman ended any hope of an Everton fightback as he was robbed by Rashford, who squared for the Frenchman to tap home his first goal since February.
Christian Eriksen made his return from an ankle injury for the final 13 minutes, but that positive news was soon overshadowed by the sight of Rashford limping gingerly around the pitch and down the tunnel ahead of a crucial fortnight for United.
They face Sevilla in the Europa League quarter-finals over the next two midweeks before a trip to Wembley to take on Brighton in the FA Cup semi-finals on April 23.