After a very encouraging four games, with really only one half
and the last 5 minutes against Villa to cloud the skies, the Moyes
revolution is once again gathering steam.
Yobo's two performances have resulted in two clean sheets;
Richard Wright's clangers are no longer dominating match reports; Li
Ties performances look more and more assured; Super Kev is, dare one
whisper it, looking Super again; and now the boy Rooney, the Rocket,
the Great White Hope has got off the mark. Even Dunc has
managed 20 minutes and two games on the bench!
So the future looks bright then? Err... Manchester United,
Arsenal, Leeds... Maybe not that bright then?
Actually, let's not be downbeat. The long-term future does
look bright and the results in these next two games are not going to
decide our season.
After a rather rocky start, Man Utd are beginning to move through
the gears. Their start was so bad that after 6 games they ONLY
had one point more than us!
But 5 wins in their last 5, including 3 straight Champions League
wins, seems to have quietened the media desperate to conclude the
saga of Man Utd's undoubted mastery of the Premiership...
Tough luck for us then!
But there are grains of hope for us in both our recent form and
the likely team that Man Utd will put out.
In recent years, Man Utd have rested 4 or 5 players and still
beaten us with embarrassing ease. Solskjaer in particular
tends to use these games to boost his goals-per-game average and
Beckham has replaced Lee Sharpe as the midfielder to hone his
shooting skills against us.
If they do rest players again, I genuinely believe they would be
in for a rude awakening. Keane is definitely out; Van
Nistlerooy possibly � and they are two major major players for
If Nistlerooy plays then I do have concerns � though we would
definitely see just what Yobo has to offer us! If he doesn't,
then Yobo has already placed Forlan in his pocket once in the reserve
match, and could do it again.
With Keane out, Gravesen and Li Tie are likely to only have to
face Scholes/Butt and Seba Veron. No problem! Our real
concerns are out wide where Pembridge and Carsley will have to face
Beckham and an absolutely flying Ryan Giggs.
Actually if you don't mind I'll leave the match-up's there � it
is far too depressing!
However, United a few years ago were even more than the sum of
their awesome parts � the sign of a quality manager and coaching
staff. This year, I'm not so sure... but Everton definitely
Workrate, commitment and belief is what we must hang on to.
Oh, and a little bit of skill. Our team is showing ability
(you must have bags of it to play Fulham off the pitch); has plenty
of goals in it (at least 2 in each of our last 4 games); is showing
signs of solidity at the back now that Yobo has brought pace and,
dare I say, a touch of class; and has an extremely competitive
We have to get stuck in, not let them settle, and make sure that
with 20 minutes to go we are still in the game. If we are,
then I can actually see us getting something out of it. Can
you believe that we will probably have a stronger bench them then!
Even Blanc and Ferdinand will not be too happy to have been bruised
and run ragged by Campbell and Radzinski and then see a fresh
Ferguson and Rooney about to descend on them!
We all know that everyone else will see us as lambs to the
slaughter and, let's face it, they are probably right. But if
Man Utd approach the game like that we may just make them pay.
This is a great opportunity for Moyes's Blues to make a huge step
forward: Yobo to stamp his ability on the Premiership; Wright to
remind everyone that he was once the best rated keeper in England;
Li Tie to show pride for his country.
But me, I am going to revert to type and let my heart rule my
head. This game is made for an old stager who has never let us
down in match-ups against the giants. I'm going for a 1-1 draw
with Big Dunc off the bench to score a late equaliser. Dunc's
legend (hollow though it ultimately may be) is built on scoring
against the Reds of Liverpool and Manchester and once again he has
got himself half-fit just as one of those games comes around.
If we can hang in this could be a cracker and what a way to tell
the Premiership that we are genuinely moving in the right direction.
Bold Everton come up empty
Playing Manchester United has become a miserable and sobering
experience; a dreaded, unavoidable expose of how large the
gap is between the well-oiled Old Trafford money machine and
the rusting latches on Everton's almost redundant coffers.
We've been paying for having the temerity to deny the Red
Devils the FA Cup ever since 1995 — and paying for it
This time, with David Moyes in charge, it was supposed to
be different — and it really was. Possibly for the first
time since that Wembley triumph, an Everton side took on Manchester
United with more than just fear of demolition and a desire
to keep the score down. For 86 minutes, they fought valiantly
and took the game to United offensively but were undone by
fatigue, a lack of incision in the final third and their hosts'
attacking superiority. The final 3-0 scoreline was gut-wrenchingly
unjust; for when viewed alongside our other maulings at the
hands of Sir Alex's men over the past seven years, there is
nothing to suggest how different the Blues were on this occasion.
Moyes kept faith with the side that had seen off Fulham
so convincingly, which meant an attacking duo of Kevin Campbell
and Tomasz Radzinski, with Wayne Rooney and Duncan Ferguson
on the bench and Lee Carsley continuing in midfield at the
expense of the increasingly ineffective Niclas Alexandersson.
Everton started the game confidently in front of a massive
67,000-odd crowd — with millions more watching Sky's
live coverage — setting their stall out to both harrass
the United midfield but also attack at every opportunity.
And their first opportunity came in the 8th minute when Campbell was felled
on the edge of the area but while the ball broke nicely for Radzinski
in the box, the referee failed to play advantage and awarded a free
kick which Thomas Gravesen blasted well over.
The rest of the half was fairly even, with Beckham, van Nistelrooy
and Scholes going close for the home side and Campbell firing just
wide on his weaker leg when he might have done better from 12 yards.
The second period began in much the same vein. Giggs headed wide
and high for United, while David Unsworth wasted another direct
free kick for the Blues before Radzinski's first-time snapshot was
dealt with well by Barthez.
Around the hour mark though, the game began to shift ominously
in United's favour, particularly when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was introduced
for the ineffective Juan Sebastian Veron. The Norwegian was handed
a half-chance within minutes of his arrival but he couldn't put
away a Beckham cross.
Two minutes later, van Nistelrooy found himself in space on the
six yard box, pulled the ball down and volleyed over the bar to
waste a gilt-edged opportunity. Scholes then put a piledriver the
wrong side of the post as the reds threatened.
With Everton's midfield tiring visibly, the time was right for
a change and, in a refreshingly positive move, Moyes decided to
throw Wayne Rooney into the fray. However, instead of going to 4-3-3
and playing one of the forwards deep, he took Radzinski off.
So, while the attacking threat posed by Rooney's fresh legs almost
paid handsome dividends when he skinned two defenders but shot straight
at Barthez, the midfield quartet were struggling to contain the
opposition's offensive threat.
Beckham's delightful 78th-minute chip bouncing off the top of the
bar to safety was merely a portent of the impending breakthrough.
7 minutes later, the ball broke to Scholes in the six yard box and
he fired past the despairing dive of Richard Wright to break the
deadlock. After putting in so much work to contain the former champions,
Everton's players were crushed by the blow.
Two minutes later, a through-ball put Solskjaer away and against
David Weir there was only going to be one winner. In his battle
to keep up with the striker, Weir pulled a little too much on Solskjaer
and was penalised with a penalty and a red card.
Van Nistelrooy despatched the penalty — although Wright guessed
right but the kick was well placed — to put the game out of
Everton's reach. Or so it seemed. A minute later at the other end,
Campbell was obviously hauled down in the area but a clear penalty
claim was waved away by referee Riley. In stoppage time, the Blues
defence backed off as Scholes advanced before unleashing a screamer
into the top corner via the crossbar and complete the scoring.
So, a game that for long periods promised at least a point for
David Moyes's plucky side ended with a harsh 3-0 scoreline and nothing
to show for a mostly stellar effort. Far from Smith-esque in his
tactics, Moyes's intention was plainly to take the game to their
hosts without leaving the back door open to their deadly strikers.
Ultimately, however, they were let down by poor distribution and
a lack of ideas in the final third, and paid for their relentless
pressing game in the middle with tired legs in the closing stages.
The result did not show how vastly different this was from previous
recent displays at Old Trafford but for those Evertonians watching,
there was at least the consolation that we matched our dreaded opponents
for most of the game.