Everton were looking to continue their excellent run of form that has seen them pick up five wins and two draws from their last seven games. United were looking to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to nine points though and were in no mood to let the Merseysiders extend their unbeaten streak.
Neither team could get hold of possession for any extended period of time early on as the opening stages proved to be of fairly poor quality without any chances being created at all. The home side were having the better of the play, but the surprise pairing of Anderson and Darren Gibson in the middle of midfield were struggling to put their stamp on the game. Rio Ferdinand was also looking out of sorts in the early exchanges, giving away a couple of silly free-kicks against Jermaine Beckford.
The first real effort on goal came after thirteen minutes when Wayne Rooney played Nani in down the left hand side of the penalty area, but his shot was fairly tame and comfortable for Time Howard in the Everton goal.
United started to dominate play after fifteen minutes or so and were looking dangerous from corner kicks, John O'Shea flashing a header over the crossbar from one such set play. The Irishman found himself free in the area on twenty minutes as well, but his shot was very much one of a defender and it tamely rolled wide.
Everton's five-man midfield was capable of getting hold of the ball at times, but Beckford seemed isolated up front and balls into him were being picked off fairly easily by Ferdinand and Johnny Evans.
Chicarito had the next meaningful effort on target as Anderson slid him in in the inside left channel but his shot from a tight angle was comfortably kept out by Howard.
Typically, Gibson needed no invitation to shoot from range, but he hadn't got his radar working in the opening half hour as a couple of his efforts ended up a long way wide.
Tim Howard's goal came under the biggest threat of the afternoon so far as Rooney played the ball into Chicharito on thirty minutes and the Mexican hit it first time from twelve yards out but Howard was equal to his powerful effort and parried it away.
The home team were completely running the show as the half moved towards its conclusion, dominating possession and looking dangerous, Everton were very organised and disciplined though and were limiting the chances United could create.
The Red Devils came incredibly close to opening the scoring after thirty-eight minutes when Antonio Valencia burst down the right and out-muscled Leighton Baines to cut the ball back for Nani. The Portuguese looked to place the ball in the bottom corner, and would have manage it if not for Chicarito who had fallen in the six yard box and blocked his team mates shot, much to the frustration of Nani.
Rooney then had another chance to create something as he got free on the right flank but failed to pick anyone out with his cut back.
It seemed like a matter of time until United broke the deadlock as they were pressurising Everton heavily and gap were beginning to appear in the visitor's defence, especially behind the usually excellent Baines.
Rooney was able to get on the ball quite regularly as he was dropping deep regularly and Everton didn't seem sure who was to pick him up. The England striker was looking dangerous but failing to make the final pass at the critical time.
Peter Walton brought the first half to a conclusion with the home team looking a little frustrated having controlled the first forty-five minutes, but failing to open the scoring.
David Moyes clearly thought things needed to be changed as he hauled Dinya Bilyaketdinov and Beckford off at half-time and brought Tim Cahill and Victor Anichebe on to provide more energy and attacking threat to the Everton side.
United weren't dominating as they had in the first-half in the opening minutes of the second as Everton had re-organised themselves and were looking well set with their bank of four and five in front of it.
It certainly hadn't been a dirty game but Walton began to flash the yellow cards after 50 minutes with Anderson and then Cahill picking up bookings in quick succession for rash challenges. John O'Shea seemed to be struggling with an injury and was brought off for Patrice Evra on 58 minutes, it may have been the thinking of Alex Ferguson that the Frenchman would offer more of an attacking threat from left-back as well.
Both Gibson and Rooney attempted long-range efforts, but the Everton defending was so committed that very few things were reaching Tim Howard with everything getting blocked before danger could arise.
Manchester United's biggest threat seemed to be Valencia down the right, who had the beating of Baines, but he was failing to pick anyone out with his crossing. The height of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin meant that headers were easy to win against Rooney and Chicarito.
Ferguson needed a break through and decided to throw on an extra forward in the shape of Michael Owen who replaced Nani. The former Liverpool man went up top with Chicarito which allowed Rooney to roam pretty much freely.
The home team's failure to make their first-half dominance pay looked like it may come back to haunt them as the Toffees were really coming in to the game. Jack Rodwell produced their first decent effort on goal of the game, and it was a very decent one. His low drive had to be brilliantly saved by Edwin van der Sar to prevent the league leaders going one down.
Manchester United were still having the majority of the possession but struggling to create chances, Owen managed to get a sniff of a chance at the near post from a Fabio cross, but it was blocked by Howard.
United desperately needed some creativity and Ferguson turned to the evergreen Ryan Giggs to try and provide it as he replaced Gibson.
As the game reached its final ten minutes United were real stepping up the pace and pushing for a winner and were camped in the Everton half. Chicharito came as close as any had in the game to that point with his header forcing a top quality save from Howard.
It was the same method that broke the deadlock though just minutes later as the Mexican put his side one-nil up. Valencia again looked threatening down the right and chipped in an excellent cross to the back post where Chicharito had slipped away from his marker and headed home past Howard.
It was no more than United deserved but you had to feel sorry for the visitors who had defended so stoutly all afternoon.
The goal really knocked the wind out of the sails of Everton and they looked very tired as United knocked the ball around, comfortably maintaining possession and winding the clock down.
The visitors were trying to conjour up an equaliser, but in truth never really looked like managing it, a tame Cahill header was as close as they came.
United saw the game out very professionally and Walton put Everton out of their misery after 95 minutes and Ferguson's men claimed the three points.