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Veron (21')
Cole (40')
Fortune (46')
Beckham (90')
(2-0) Campbell (68')
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Everton v Manchester United:
Prior League Games
 Man United  39
 Everton  15
 Draws  18
 Man United  7
 Everton  1
 Draws  1
 Last Season:
 Man Utd 1-0 Everton

Everton, totally outclassed, lasted a stalwart 20 minutes before succumbing to the vastly superior quality, skill and cohesiveness of Manchester United Reserves.  Well, that's a bit unfair on the likes of Keane, Blanc, and Veron.  

The Argentinean, at 28M, is probably worth more than the entire Everton team.  And he proved it with his first goal in the Premiership, waltzing through a mesmerized Everton defence to fire home a perfectly worked one-two.

Everton hardly got a look in during a very one-sided first half were United managed 13 goal attempts to a single paltry one from Everton.  The number of passes forward by Everton defenders and midfielders that went straight to United players was a shameful indictment of the gulf in quality, desire and commitment between the teams.

This was demonstrated on the 40-minute mark as a simple throw-in was poorly defended, allowing Chadwick to fake out two Everton defenders and set up Cole for an easy second goal.

The second half started in similar vein, with Fortune through and chipping elegantly over Gerrard after just 20 seconds.  3-0, and a mountain to climb...   

Manchester United sat back, reflecting in their own glory and toying with Everton as they were invited to attack, but failed in the main.  After 65 mins, Walter Smith finally rang the changes and a couple of minutes later Everton had scored a surprise goal.

It was a good ball over the top from Watson, with Gemmill sprinting forward to beat the offside trap and take the ball well on his arm.  He centered to Campbell who's poor shot was blocked by a defender but still bobbled over the line for a consolation goal. 

There followed a short period when Everton actually looked worthy of their high place, putting the United defence heavy pressure, with Ferguson hitting the post.   

But in the last minute, the final nail was hammered home as a speculative prod from outside the area by Beckham bobbled past Gerrard and went in off the post.  Everton utterly humbled.

And the FergusonBlanc Head to Head?  Blanc by a country mile.

M A T C H    F A C T S
  Match Info  
  FA Premiership 2001-02, Game 4
3:00pm  Saturday 8 September 2001
Old Trafford, Manchester
Referee: Dermot Gallagher
Att: 67,534
Position: 5th
TV: Overseas
Line-ups Subs not used
Manchester United Barthez, G Neville (58' Silvestre), Brown, Blanc, P Neville, Chadwick (77' Beckham), Veron, Keane, Fortune, Cole, Yorke (77' van Nistelrooy).  Carroll, Giggs.
Everton: Gerrard, Unsworth, Stubbs (75' Tal), Weir (65' Xavier), Watson, Alexandersson (65' Moore) Gemmill, Pembridge, Pistone, Campbell, Ferguson.  Simonsen,  Chadwick.
Unavailable:  Gravesen, Naysmith, Radzinski (injured); Nyarko (loan); Cadamarteri (in court). 
Playing Strips Formations
Manchester United: Red shirts; white shorts; black socks 4-4-2
Everton: Royal Blue shirts; blue shorts; blue socks. 5-3-2
  Yellow Cards Red Cards
Manchester United:  -- --
Everton:  Weir (29') --

Premiership Scores
Chelsea 1-1 Arsenal
Derby 0-0 West Ham
Leeds 0-0 Bolton
Leicester 1-1 Ipswich
Liverpool 1-3 Aston Villa
Man Utd 4-1 Everton
Middlesbro 1-4 Newcastle
Sunderland 1-0 Blackburn
Charlton 1-1 Fulham
Tottenham  2-0 So'hampton

Premiership Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Bolton 10
2 Man Utd 8
3 Leeds 8
4 Arsenal 7
5 Everton 7
6 Sunderland 7
7 Newcastle 5
8 Aston Villa 5
9 Chelsea 5
10 Fulham 5
11 Tottenham 5
12 Derby 5
13 Ipswich 4
14 Charlton 4
15 Blackburn 4
16 Liverpool 3
17 West Ham 2
18 Leicester 1
19 Southampton 0
20 Middlesbrough 0
M A T C H     R E P O R T S
Everton Web Sites
ToffeeWeb Match Summary
ToffeeWeb Still a class apart Match Report
When Skies Are Grey Match Report
From The Terrace Match Report
Blue Kipper Match Report
Everton Fans' Reports
Squire of Beckenham It's all been rather lovely
Guy McEvoy Commitment, self-belief, motivation
Featured Media Reports
The Sunday Times Blanc leads United charge
The Times Lofty Pretensions Exposed
Links to Other Media Reports
Electronic Telegraph Match Report
BBC Sport Match Report
FA Premier Match Report
Sky Sports Match Report
Sporting Life Match Report
SoccerNet Match Report
The Guardian Match Report
The Observer Match Report
The Independent Match Report
Liverpool Echo Match Report
Daily Post Match Report

Match Preview

Everton have found it hard no, impossible to beat a rampant Manchester United since that dramatic day in May, over six long years ago, when Sir Alex Ferguson's side suffered his only ever loss in a major final. 

But this season, Everton enter the lions' den at Old Trafford with  a little bit more than a glimmer of hope that they can catch United on a bad day.  For once, the Blues will take the field with the rare confidence that comes from an elevated position in this season's embryonic Premiership table, following a relatively good sequence of results from the first three games.  Add to that, a less than stellar start by United, who have been lucky not to lose at least one of their opening fixtures.  

But the opposition in those games has frankly been of a lower calibre than Everton will face on Saturday.  It would nice to think that United's many internationals will be tired from their mid-week exploits, but half of the Everton team has also been on International duty.  

Team News
Thomasz Radzinski will not be making his long-awaited debut, having suffered a relapse with his hamstring problem.  But Paul Gascoigne could be expected to make a welcome return at least to the bench after completing two full matches for Everton Reserves in his bid to prove his Premiership worth perhaps one last time.

Head to Head
The match-up that has Evertonians salivating is the prospect of seasoned campaigner and fearsome attacker, Duncan Ferguson, up against Premiership newcomer Laurent Blanc, Manchester United's rushed replacement for the deposed and displaced centre-back, Jap Stamm.  Will Big Dunc remember any of Slaven Bilic's cunning tricks when it comes to handling the French international? 

Can Everton pull off a massive surprise?  Or will the intrinsic quality of football United are capable of playing be sufficient to blow Everton off the park yet again?

Still a class apart

by Lyndon Lloyd

The ritual humiliation at Old Trafford was, for the most part, just that.  Manchester United may have made an indifferent start to the new season but their embarrassment of riches ensured that, even with some of the really big names missing from the starting line-up, they once again comprehensively outshone Everton.

Walter Smith's side, on the back of their best start for eight years, were confident of causing an upset at a ground on which they haven't tasted victory since recording a 3-0 there win nine years ago.  However, while the Blues never looked intimidated, unlike Fulham three weeks ago they showed the home side far too much respect and played - defensively at least - as if damage limitation was the order of the day.

Smith fielded an unchanged line-up with the rumoured return of Paul Gascoigne - even as a substitute - an unfulfilled hope and Tomasz Radzinski suffering a relapse of the hamstring strain that has held back his Everton debut.

From the whistle, United showed the gulf in class that still exists between the two clubs, carving out an opening within seconds of kick off that was hustled clear by the visitors' defence.  Juan Sebastian Veron, looking every inch a 28M player, soon took hold of the game and never really let go.

Showing a quickness of mind and movement that Everton looked hopelessly unable to either emulate or extinguish, United teased and toyed with Everton for long periods and, for the first hour, looked like they could score any time they chose to.  The Blues' defence looked ill-equipped to deal with anything that the Red Devils threw at them and, although Smith's men had a couple of openings when Alexandersson nearly sent Kevin Campbell through and the latter forced a corner, it was United who had the first meaningful shot on goal when Dwight Yorke blazed over from 12 yards at the second attempt

Obviously feeding off the experience of being in the company of the Champions, Everton stroked the ball about nicely at times but lacked any sort of penetration.  The familiar diagonal cross-field ball from Unsworth reared its ugly head on a few occasions and Messers Campbell and Ferguson looked like they were playing with lead in their boots.

With a quarter of an hour gone, the warning bell sounded when Quentin Fortune thumped a shot off Paul Gerrard's post and the Blues 'keeper had to make a good save from the resulting volley by Veron as United showed their intentions.  The Argentinean came close a couple of minutes later when he glided a curling free kick inches wide of the far post as Everton hung on.

The Blues' inability to keep the ball when they had it was clearly costing them any opportunity to hurt their superior opposition and wave after wave of United attacks threatened to break the deadlock, which was broken in the 22nd minute when Veron played a one-two as he surged into the box and despatched the opening goal past Gerrard with ease to make it 1-0.

With United not having lost a game on home soil in the Premiership when they have scored first, and given Everton's record against Alex Ferguson's men at any venue since the inception of the Premier League, the game was up.  It was just a question of how many, because the Blues hardly looked capable of scoring.

One instance when they could have pulled a goal back was when David Unsworth put Campbell through but his leaden feet stumbled over the ball and Wes Brown cleared easily.

A minute later it was 2-0.  A throw-in from the right curled in the stiff Manchester breeze, eluding Unsworth and allowing Luke Chadwick to evade David Weir and set up the unmarked Andy Cole who planted the ball past the stranded Gerrard.

If that wasn't bad enough, within 21 seconds of the restart following half-time, it was 3-0 as United beat Everton at their own game, craftily demonstrating the art of flicking the ball on to a mobile team-mate.  Yorke beat his marker in the air to send Fortune through a non-existent defence and the South African international clipped the ball over Gerrard to compound Smith's misery.

Everton were crying out for a touch creativity and penetration, qualities that many of the players (who were adequate when battling for Premiership survival but now need more if the Blues are to remain in the top half of the league) simply weren't displaying.

Worse, the battling qualities that have epitomised Everton for years and were the downfall of Alex Ferguson's side in the '95 Cup Final have become the hallmarks of Manchester United.  Ferguson has demonstrably wised up to Everton's tactics and instilled them in his own players.  And to cap it off, referee Dermot Gallagher had a propensity for the first hour to blow for even the slightest contact against a home player, which was just as well because Everton were not their bruising selves by any stretch of the imagination.

With 25 minutes to go, the game suddenly changed, possibly because of the double substitution of Abel Xavier and Joe-Max Moore for Weir and the limping Alexandersson, but more likely because of a split second of magic from Scott Gemmill.  From nowhere, the midfielder anticipated a ball from the right and made a perfectly-timed, darting run through the United defence and, all on his own, took time to look up, square the ball for Campbell whose half-blocked shot squirmed inside the far post to hand the Blues a consolation goal.

Immediately, Everton's self-belief returned, along with the neat passing and incisive inter-changes.  Gone was United's dominance and for a few minutes the visitors had a glimmer of hope.  Moore broke down the right, squared it to Campbell who in turn clipped it square for Ferguson but he dithered and had the ball stolen off him at the crucial moment.

Still, Everton pressed and the introduction of Idan Tal for Alan Stubbs was another positive decision as the Israeli set about playing United at their own game, jinking and teasing on the edge of the area.  However, his ideas were not shared by all of his team-mates and, where opportunities were created by Tal, the moves soon broke down at the feet of others.

However, Everton did manage to carve out two more good opportunities: firstly, when a lovely interchange between Moore and Campbell saw the latter chip an inviting ball into the path of the American but his volley was well blocked by a defender for a corner; and secondly when Ferguson agonisingly hit the post with 9 minutes to go.

After having drifted out of the game for 20 minutes, United renewed the offensive when David Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy came on with five minutes to go.  The Dutchman saw a snap-shot slide just wide and Veron forced another save from Gerrard before Beckham had the last word, picking up a dreadful ball inside by Steve Watson and producing a skimming drive from 20 yards which eluded the despairing dive of Gerrard to make it 4-1.

Ironically, despite the scoreline, the match was a useful guage of Everton's progress this season in this the first stern test of their credentials so far.  The gulf in class between them and Manchester United is still as big as it ever was and the defence looks worryingly lacking when faced with a world-class attack, but there were plenty of signs that Everton really are too good to go down this year.

If they can summon up the confidence to go out and attack teams on the ground from the beginning, showing the opposition no respect no matter who it is then a top-half berth is not out of the question.  At the moment, Smith is still too defensively minded and he is not instilling in the players the belief that they can beat anyone on their day.  Defence is still the first instinct when attack can often be the best form of defending.

Its all been rather lovely

by the Squire of Beckenham

Its all been rather lovely. (John Le Mesuriers last words, 1983) 

The time wed all feared had arrived; the balmy late summer of August and all its promise had given way to the bit of the fixture list that we all christened Black September; the point where we would see how far weve progressed or regressed in the close season.  

The portents were everywhere. The Deutschland 1 Liverpool 5 headlines; David Beckenham looking good despite his groin problems; Leeds getting back to the 70s in a big and dirty way; and at home in Beckham in Kent, as I turned the page on my Everton Legends calendar, I said hats off to Peter Reid and August, and Piss Off to Tellyhead and September.

Still, there was room for a slight glimmer of optimism; Jaap Stam had been cast into the wilderness of Serie A for daring to suggest that the goon in charge at Man Ure likes his players to adopt a Continental approach in influencing refereeing decisions, and for accusing the Chuckle Brothers (sorry, the Nevilles) of being busy c*nts.  One word too many in most peoples opinion, but thats what happens when you use a ghostwriter...

We also had the twin talismans of my lad Martin (hes never seen Everton lose a game that hes attended, remember) and Davie Weir the Tortoise.  Also wanting to make her first appearance of the season was my ever-loving partner Lily; despite being laid low by pharyngitis, nothing was going to stop her dragging herself, Lazarus-like, from the pit to get to the game.  If theres any star-spotting to be done shes at the forefront, a living embodiment of Heat magazine; no way was she going to miss out on seeing the world-famous David Beckenham warm his arse on the bench.

I did happen to mention that we may well have the pleasure of seeing one P Gascoigne, but the look on her face said it all; who he?  Such is the fickle and fleeting nature of celebrity and modern-day football; one minute its champagne, riches and An Audience with David Beckenham, the next its Diamond White, the divorce courts and Crosswits with Tom O Connor.  Shit happens...

I wont bore you with the details of the six-hour journey up from Beckham to Old Trafford via St Helens, but the pre-planned rendezvous with Ticketmaster Terry Tel and the Widnes Bus posse went for a ball of chalk.  However, Terry raved about the crack in The Nags Head when I finally ran into him.  I pray that he wasnt referring to navvies with Dagenham cleavage.

Sadly, during the journey it also emerged that Davie Weir the Talismanic Tortoise had gone AWOL, which meant that wed have to go into the game relying solely on my lads 100% record and our quality midfield.

Its often said that Manchester United is no longer just a football team, rather a blood-sucking corporate monster.  If this is the case, may I ask the powers that be at Old Trafford if they wouldnt mind increasing the number of refreshment stands in the away section?  They could extort yet more money and my bird would have been able to get a Diet Coke to soothe her throat, which by now was assuming all the essential visual attributes of a baboons arse.  Still, nobody else seemed to mind; the Bellies were out in force and giving full voice to their impressive repertoire...

Oh Posh Spice is a slapper, she is a fuckin whore, 
And when shes shagging Beckenham, she thinks of Joe-Max Moore 
MOORE, MOORE, MOORE, how dlike it, how dlike it?

We took our seats, and revelled in the empty, sanitised idea of what constitutes a pre-match build-up at Old Trafford these days, enlivened only by the Red Arrows blowing over the roof at Angels None.  Very nice and all that, but I'd have the Samba Band anyday.

The game kicked off and er, need I continue?  To say that we were outclassed in the first half is akin to describing the Empire State Building as tallish.  Its purely a matter of quality.  The United players are full of confidence, movement, tricks and nouse, and our lads are full of Archie's pep-talks, niggling knocks and the fear of the drop.

While United were moving up the field with crisp passes, pretty movement and an array of angles that would gladden the heart of even the sternest Geometry teacher, our answer was sadly one-dimensional; hoof-it-up-to-the-Big-Fella-and-see-what-happens...  

And, doubly sadly, the pre-match conjecture regarding the rough ride that Blanc was going to have on his debut against the meejia-styled Bruise Brothers came to nowt.  Big Dunc decided to have a bad day at the office, and Soooper Kev looked lethargic (though not, as some of the most knowledgeable fans in the game cried, a lazy cunt).

The freakishly gifted Veron was everywhere, taking advantage of Beckenham's arse-warming to place himself firmly on centre stage; he was soon on the end of a move that hed started, bursting into the box and rifling the ball past the cruelly exposed Gerrard.  In fact, only Gerrard and (please sit down) the prescience and calmness of Pistone stopped things from being FAR worse.

We were being horribly overrun, so I decided to try to get Lil a drink way before half time, and thus missed that nice Andrew Cole being played though a static defence to nab the second.  And I still didn't get the sodding drink.  Still, half-time in the Premiership usually provides something to allow you to pour yourself a hand shandy, so I shot back to my seat... and found a ManUre v Everton charity penalty shootout in progress.  We lost.

A combination of me still queuing for a sodding drink and the shites in the refreshment booth not accepting 20 notes led to my missing the third too; a long ball was put through and Quids-In Fortune steamed though the centre of our defence, who appeared to be communicating only in semaphore due to the distance between them.  3-0.

Its a shame that the atmosphere at Old Trafford doesnt match the quality of the play.  Many theories have been advanced for this, and while Im not going to harp on about the Corporate Monster stuff it is true that the supporter demographic at Old Trafford had changed much more markedly than anywhere else; the traditional fanbase is being supplanted by the daytrippers wholl come in, buy all the tack in the Megastore, buy their drinks and food in the ground, sit quietly and expect to be entertained.  A ManUre fan on 606 the next day related tales of how they scream at the daytrippers to get involved, to no avail.

Still, one thing the daytrippers do like is parochial stereotypes, and out came the In your Liverpool Slums song answered by Oh Manchester, is full of SHIT"... before you knew it we had a serve and volley game of Knobhead Tennis, through versions of the He Kills Scousers song, and Theres Only One Harold Shipman and finally to the Munich crap.  Its all incredibly sad & juvenile, but perhaps the Mancs and their chums in the media should acknowledge that any brain-dead behaviour from their itinerant fucknuts will inevitably be matched by any hard-core of visiting fucknuts.  No excuses here.

While all this was going on, Giggsy warmed up and Lil got all excited, until Silvestre came on instead and Giggsy sat back down.  This interlude was swiftly followed by the introduction of Abel Xavier and Mrs Beckenhams fantasy Yank.  And bugger me, the Mancs would have stopped singing if theyd actually bothered to start, as Gemmill sprang the offside trap and squared to SooperKev who drilled the ball past Barthez and the covering defender. 

Incidentally, the meejia made much of the suspicion of handball in the move, but the only handball was by Wes Brown, who tried to save it before Barthez did.  Oddly enough, Dermot Gallagher never spotted it, nor did he spot a host of Manc fouls in the first half.  Business as usual in every respect then.  Earlier, Dunc had missed a sitter as he got his wires and his legs crossed, and we actually gave a decent impression of a team of the middle rank.

With about ten minutes to go, Lil finally got what she was gagging for, as Beckenham took the field in his daft white boots, along with Denise Van Outen or someone (Ruud Van Nistelrooy, perhaps).  Soft Lad's answer was to let Idan Tal have a little run, and we had them rattled.  Tal was all over the front of the Manc defence picking up ball left, right and centre, and the Mancs couldn't deal with him.  Why oh WHY wont Soft Lad play him from the off?  Answers on a postcard please to W Smith, c/o EFC, L4 4EL.

With our star being in the ascendancy, it was a crying shame when Gemmill played the ball straight to Beckenham, who was 25 yards out in acres of space.  This will not form the basis of a What Happened Next? round in next years A Question of Sport.  4-1. 

We decided to leave at this point because we figured that Dimwit Ball-Acher would only add on 15 minutes more agony at Dementos whim, which led Martin to point out that he still hadnt seen Everton actually lose and thus his record remained intact. A coruscatingly brilliant career in semantics awaits the lad.

So, another malleting to ponder on the long journey back to Beckham in Kent, and to think about the impending slugfest against The Pinkies, whose unfortunate reverse at home to Villa gained the biggest cheer of the day.  However, heres something to make you titter; United indulged in some Stalinist revisionism in the Official Matchday Programme, by printing a brand new squad photograph in the Centre Pages.  And quite a collectors item it makes too, particularly the way that theyve superimposed Laurent Blancs head onto Jaap Stams body.

And you thought our away shirt scam was bad.

Commitment, self-belief and motivation?

by Guy McEvoy

You knew United were up for taking the piss when they announced their bench.  Choosing to rest Beckham, Giggs, Van Neisleroy and Silvestre shows how scared they weren't of this one.

Our midfield was completely and utterly outclassed.  No real surprise there, but I felt that in the first half they just accepted this too much.  We stepped off and gave them time on the ball and therefore time to crank it up.  

When you know in advance they have the better technicians surely a 'dogs' approach is better? Soon as they get the ball let's have a man closing them down and making an attempt at a tackle...... they don't like it up 'em.  I seem to remember it working a couple of time in 95.  Not something on display yesterday.

The first half was a disappointment.  Kev and Dunc on the few chances they did produce looked as sharp as jelly.  To be fair to Smith, I was sat there trying to imagine how I'd swap it round.  All the permutations I could think of would also end up in us getting battered.  What we needed wasn't a tactical reshuffle, it was individual commitment, self-belief and motivation.

The only realistic option was to bring on Tal, but in my opinion, he thrives when the opposition is knackered (whatever his assets, and whatever anyone says, he lacks physical strength).  So the last 20 mins IS the time for him.

The goal straight after half time killed our chances, which is a shame as we did give a good account of ourselves for a chunk of the second half, and yes, that coincides with the introduction of Tal.  Had Dunc's shot that hit the post crept and inch the other way, we'd have a very different perception of the game now....

Blanc leads United charge at Old Trafford

by Jonathan Northcroft, Sunday Times

WALTER Smith called this "back to reality".  Second in the Premiership and above Manchester United for the first time in five years at 3pm, Everton were left wondering how they were in the same league as the champions by 3.45pm.  United brutalised their opponents with football which brimmed with ideas and adventure and was taken by Juan Veron to levels seldom seen.  "Once he learns to relax hell be all right," said Sir Alex Ferguson.  The irony was thick as the managers Govan burr.  

Veron was nonchalance with a goatee beard but too much of that quality almost spoiled Uniteds afternoon.  At 3-0, going on double that, they let their minds drift and allowed Everton back in the game.  Kevin Campbell scored and for a period it looked like his side might retrieve something more.  Ultimately Ferguson had to introduce David Beckham, who he might have wanted to rest for the Champions League, and it took until the 90th minute for the midfielder to restore order with a 20-yard strike.

Ferguson grumped at the staining of what should have been a clean sheet, remarking "it gives people encouragement to still say we cant defend", but nobody could level such a thing at Laurent Blanc.  The Frenchman was near-faultless on his debut, having been promised by Campbell an "in your face" introduction.  Campbell, instead, was more in the Frenchmans pocket.

Blanc, his socks half-mast, his shirt short-sleeved despite a gnawing wind, is no softie.  There was no kiss for Fabien Barthez but Wes Brown and the Nevilles got an earful of instructions.  Campbell rattled Brown with a third-minute challenge to signal intent but Blanc laid his own markers.  When Campbell cut past Phil Neville and veered into the box from the right the Frenchman dismissively strolled over to nick the ball off the strikers toes.  Later he stood under a swirling clearance from Paul Gerrard with Ferguson closing in.  He fished the ball from the air with one long, languid leg, then used the other to flick it back to Barthez.

Blanc also showed attacking adroitness.  Veron miskicked an Everton corner on to his own post but, while teammates gawped at their great escape, Blanc collected possession and purred upfield like a limousine, finding Roy Keane on the left.  Keane swept a pass behind Evertons defence to set up Dwight Yorke but the striker thumped his shot into Gerrards shins, then hacked the rebound into the stand.  It was Yorke who touched back to Quinton Fortune for the South African to drive against the post before Veron, from 30 yards, looped a sublime volley towards the top corner which Gerrard tipped away superbly.  Veron then received a verbal volley from Keane for over-elaborating.  As an apology, he scored a beautiful goal.

While Everton waited for a chip back into the box after clearing the ball, Veron instead played it sharply toward Keane and followed in its wake.  Keane let Veron breast the area before returning the pass and his midfield partner took one touch before ramming a shot behind Gerrard.  Everton started 3-5-2 but quickly changed to 5-3-2, which was sensible because even with an extra midfielder, they could not get on the ball.  Campbell soon gave up on Blanc and the Frenchman dominated Ferguson so much that the big striker moaned to the referee about bullying.

It took him 40 minutes to beat Blanc in the air but he could not divert his header goalward.  This caused United more anxiety than necessary because, for all their dominance, it was still 1-0.  Verons passing was not adorned by the finishing it deserved.  Twice he sent Fortune away with 50-yard flighted balls but the South African rolled a shot wide the first time, then crossed to Andrew Cole the second but the striker headed straight at Gerrard.

Cole scored when Luke Chadwick, having wasted several good carries by shooting or crossing weakly, cut the ball back after his umpteenth slalom past David Unsworth.  Cole swept a shot in off Gerrards far post and United, with Veron singled out, went in to a standing ovation.  They began the second period from a running start, Gary Neville playing long to Yorke, who sent Fortune in. Fortune favoured the chip-shot against Gerrard, and with 21 seconds gone, it was 3-0.

Old Trafford wanted a rout but instead rot set in, in Uniteds concentration.  Scott Gemmill cut in on goal, suffered a crisis of nerve, but managed to find Campbell, who controlled before scoring off Brown.  Ferguson stumbled over one chance but almost made it 3-2 with a shot Barthez touched on to the post.  The spirited way Everton responded will gain them points against other sides.  Smith said: "Were glad we only visit Old Trafford once a year."

Gemmill beat the offside trap to cut in on Barthez but his nerve failed and he passed to Campbell in a more difficult shooting position.  The striker was still able to score, however, hitting a shot against Brown and in off the post.  The woodwork was less kind to Everton when it stopped Ferguson making it 3-2, though Barthez also got a finger to his shot.  It took David Beckhams introduction to calm Old Traffords growing nerves, the England captain scoring Uniteds fourth with a late, low 20-yard shot.

Times Newspapers, Ltd

Everton's pretensions to loftier heights exposed

by Nick Szczepanik, The Times

Walter Smith, the Everton manager, made such a low-key entrance into the Old Trafford press room that, for a few seconds, he went unnoticed rather like his team, except that in their case it took the best part of an hour before they made any impression.  Kevin Campbell, the captain, had promised "in your face football", but it never materialised.

The defence did not show the intensity required to tame the champions, the midfield was passive and Campbell and Duncan Ferguson, starved of service, were unable to unsettle the new partnership of Laurent Blanc and Wes Brown.  Things improved when, 3-0 down, Smith abandoned the defensive system that had brought seven points from three matches.  Everton had the chances to snatch an improbable draw, but Scot Gemmill and Campbell even made hard work of the consolation goal.

Smiths side owed their previous lofty position to victories over injury-hit Charlton Athletic and dismal Middlesbrough, and a draw with nine-man Tottenham Hotspur. Next they face Liverpool and Leeds United. "Back to reality for us," Smith said. And how.

Times Newspapers

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