Skip to Main Content
Members:   Log In Sign Up
Text:  A  A  A

Going Through the Motions

By Lyndon Lloyd :  22/11/2009 :  Comments (26) :

Manchester United 3-0 Everton

It's sad when you have to mentally write off a match before it's even kicked off but that's what you do when Everton play at Old Trafford nowadays. Defeat is almost a foregone conclusion, a creditable draw would be greeted like a win but even when the Blues have performed well there, as they did in the two previous seasons, United have still found a way to win.

So little surprise then that David Moyes's men again came away from Manchester with no points but the manner of the defeat will have sowed further doubts not only about the character of this team to continue its slog through the manager's selection crisis and rediscover the kind of form that will be necessary to climb back into European contention, but also about Moyes's ability to steer his charges out of their current malaise.

United have not been playing well recently and they were some way short of it today as well but they still rode out comfortable 3-0 winners. Once Darren Fletcher had half-volleyed sublimely into the top corner 10 minutes before half time, the game was pretty much up and most in attendance probably knew it.

With the exception of Lucas Neill at right back in place of Tony Hibbert, Everton were unchanged from the team that had won at West Ham a fortnight ago. That meant Louis Saha returning to his old stomping ground for the first time since moving to Goodison last year, but if the Frenchman was hoping for the kind of service he used to receive when fit during his Old Trafford days, he was to be sorely disappointed... but then he's come to expect having to feed off scraps and chase long balls out from the back ever since Steven Pienaar got injured.

Everton's forays into United territory in a highly disappointing first half were rare and short-lived and with Marouane Fellaini and Jack Rodwell profligate with the ball, the home side were predictably in control of possession in the early going.

It wasn't until 15 minutes had gone, though, that they managed to fashion the first chance which Wayne Rooney sliced well wide from just inside the penalty area. That was followed by Ryan Giggs testing Tim Howard for the first time with a tame shot from a similar distance.

Saha's first sight of goal arrived after 20 minutes when a deflected cross arrived at his feet 16 yards but though his aim was good, the shot lacked power and Edwin van der Saar dived to his right to make the stop. A Rodwell effort a couple of minutes later also lacked venom and the 'keeper was again able to gather comfortably.

The pattern of the Blues' play had been established by this point: basically, play the percentages by lumping it in the direction of Fellaini, principally, and Saha and hope for something to break. Everything went down the middle in the first half and Neill didn't get down the right flank once the entire match. Baines on the opposite side may have ventured on the overlap on one occasion but that was probably it. With no width, Everton were depressingly predictable and easy to counteract.

The hosts, for all their technical superiority and ability to move the ball, weren't all that inspiring themselves until Valencia nodded a cross to the back post back to the edge of the area and Fletcher despatched an unstoppable effort in off the post to hand United the lead after 34 minutes.

As is so often the case with Everton, going a goal down briefly sparked some life into them but there was no end product between then and half-time. Their cause was not helped much by referee Steve Bennett who underscored perfectly the dual standard that exists for the likes of Manchester United on the one hand and the likes of Everton on the other when Fellaini was reprimanded for leading with his elbow in a challenge with Fletcher and booked for persistent fouling. Barely three minutes later, Nemanja Vidic committed the same offence on Johnny Heitinga, split his brow open with an elbow and escaped a yellow card altogether.

The half-time interval brought an unusually rapid tactical shift from Moyes when he withdrew Dan Gosling and pushed Yakubu up front with Saha. The difference to the Blues' potency was, predictably, almost instantaneous and there was a lot more about Everton as the second half began. In the absence of any attacking intent by the fullbacks, Sylvain Distn took it upon himself to maraud down the left to pick up a return ball from Yakubu and his cross to Saha was inviting but his compatriot dragged his shot agonisingly wide.

A couple of minutes later, a wonderful spin on the touchline by Yakubu left Rafael for dead and though his attempted cross was clobbered behind by a defender, the resulting corner fell to Heitinga whose fierce shot was too close Van der Saar and his Dutch international teammate saved.

The best move from the Blues all game actually ended with the ball in the net but Fellaini was rightly flagged offside before Yakubu threaded a lovely ball into the box for Cahill but he was foiled by the 'keeper in a sliding challenge from which both players hobbled away gingerly. And the Yak almost leveled the game a few minutes later when he made a superb turn in the box to evade his marker but he skewed a left-footer inches wide of the far post.

United remained dangerous, of course, and when Distin mysteriously bottled out of a 50-50 challenge with Valencia and the ball broke to Michael Owen, he thankfully took the ball too wide and fired behind the goal from a tight angle. Then, Rooney clipped the top of Howard's crossbar with a dipping effort from 20 yards that had Evertonian hearts in mouths.

The second goal, when it came did so in less spectacular fashion and raised yet more questions of the Blues' leaky defence. When a corner from the left fell to Rooney on the far side and he drilled a wayward shot across the face of the area, Giggs was still near the corner flag to pick up the loose ball. He spotted Michael Carrick free on the edge of the box and one simple pass was all it took to allow the midfielder to side-foot crisply into the far corner. 2-0 and no way back.

Nine minutes later it was three when Paul Scholes fed Valencia in space in the wide-right channel and he advanced before driving a low shot that deflected off Baines and looped over Howard's arms to nestle in the net.

There were some late, vain attempts by Everton to reduce the damage but Fellaini put a free header over the bar and Rodwell forced Van der Saar's best save of the afternoon in injury time with a powerful shot that was heading just inside of the post. Overall, very little to take away in terms of positives from the game, except perhaps that Fellaini's booking means that he will serve a one-match ban and force Moyes to try something else.

For £12m+, you'd expect a lot more from Fellaini than a one-paced disciplinary liability who only occasionally rouses himself from his laid-back demeanour to demonstate what he's capable of. Moyes has been trying to fit this square peg into a round hole all season and it clearly isn't working. When he had only one fit striker from which to choose, it was understandable but with Yakubu and Saha available, it begs the question, if you're going to play Fellaini in the forward role instead of Cahill (who, incidentally, is just as ineffective at the moment as the Fouling 'Fro) then can we at least go the whole hog and just try playing two recognised strikers up front? It couldn't be any worse than Fellaini in the hole, and the Yak can at least operate as a makeshift winger, as he able demonstrated with a couple of flourishes today.

Much is made of the current injury crisis but a defence of Neill, Yobo, Distin, and Baines is a decent back line; a midfield boasting the best young English prospect in his position, an established Dutch international earning more than anyone else in the Everton squad, a record-signing Belgian international and the much-trumpeted Cahill ought to be able to string more than a couple of passes together and deliver a better final ball than has been the case over the past few games. Clearly, Moyes's team is very little without its creative lifeblood in the form of Arteta and Pienaar and their return is going to be essential to the Blues' chances of regaining entry to Europe next season.

In the meanwhile, victory at Hull City on Wednesday, Everton's game in hand, has taken on vital importance as we prepare for next weekend's derby match, two games that could kick-start or condemn our season...

Player Ratings: Howard 6, Neill 6, Baines 7, Distin 6, Yobo 7, Rodwell 7, Heitinga 6, Gosling 5, Cahill 5, Fellaini 5, Saha 6, Yakubu 7*, Jo, Hibbert (not on longer enough to warrant a rating)

Reader Comments

Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer

Chris Perry
1   Posted 23/11/2009 at 07:29:51

Report abuse

I think you have got the analysis down to a fine art, I did not even bother to watch after the first 15 minutes, the outcome was going to be obvious.

There is just no " balls " in the team, no fight, pride, effort, willing and disapointingly the ability to compete in the leauge.

Just because they are internationals does not mean they are good, how we bought Fellaini i will never know, certainly the biggest waste of money in my time watching Everton.

Moyes and his negative tactics are going to be the fall of this once great and entertaining club. Under Moyes we will not have pace of flair like Limpar, Kanchelsis etc, he is a hoof ball championship manager at best.
Kevin Sparke
2   Posted 23/11/2009 at 08:18:44

Report abuse

A fair assessment Lyndon. There was a moment in the first half when Fellaini got the ball halfway between the half way line and the Manchester United goal area — Saha was to his left and drifted wide screaming for the through ball which was definitely on... what did Screech do? Checked his run and passed it back to Yobo who hoofed it into row Z.

I was frustrated and angered by the lack of ambition Everton showed in the first half and I believe that this was the result of Moyes dictating a ’damage limitation’ policy type of tactics. All well and good if you’ve a confident defence who will keep out the constant barrage that these tactics invite... but we haven’t had a confident defence since Jagielka got crocked.

The second half gave me a little more hope and we did try to take the game to Manchester United — but successful attacking football is built on accurate distribution and retention of the football — our patched up midfield has lost this skill and without the grace of Arteta and the waspish runs of Pienaar it looks like it is - static, unadventurous and easily overrun.

Rodwell needs resting; Cahill has lost something vital in his game and Fellaini has long said goodbye any confidence on the ball he was developing.

The sad fact is Moyes was getting it right last season; Everton were playing expansive winning football — and it all started to turn to shite at St James Park when Arteta hurt himself. We still ground out results but the beating heart of creativity had gone.

So, what are our options?

Sack Moyes and appoint a new manager who will have to still manage the side on a shoestring budget and inherit the worst injury crisis in our history?

Stick with Moyes, ride out the injury storm and hope to return to the purple patch of good football we played for 3 months of last season when all are fit?

I can’t see Kenwright sacking Moyes — which is probably a good thing, as the last thing Everton football club need at this moment is another Walter Smith or Mike Walker — it will be hello Championship football as a cast iron certainty.
Ajay Gopal
3   Posted 23/11/2009 at 08:49:19

Report abuse

Lyndon, I can’t understand how you can give Rodwell a 7 and Fellaini 5. OK, I admit that I watched the game on TV here in India (and I missed a part of the 1st half due to transmission problem), but to me, Fellaini was the only guy (OK, Yakubu also in the 2nd half) who was actually trying to do something useful with the football. Rodwell, Cahill were shocking, and Heitinga was missing for large parts of the game.

But, other than that, I agree that we should play with 2 strikers — Yak is looking very lively (but fitness to play 90 mins?) and Saha is on song, but the midfield looks horribly short on creativity and numbers. Gosling is at best a "last 5 minutes impact" sub, so that leaves us with Rodwell, Cahill, Heitinga and ?? Moyes may be forced to play Baines in left mid-field and stick Neill at Left Back, unless we get some bodies back from injuries.

And that is one more thing that is frustrating the life out of me — why do our injuries take so long to heal ? Pienaar’s mysterious 2-month lay-off, Osman’s unknown injury status, Anichebe — "luckily, he does not appear to have any broken bones" 10-month layoff, the Neville — "targeting Man United return", the list could go on. I am losing confidence in Baz, sorry!
Kevin Sparke
4   Posted 23/11/2009 at 09:13:26

Report abuse

This seems to be a good assessment
Alan Kirwin
5   Posted 23/11/2009 at 09:31:33

Report abuse

It was utterly predictable, utterly tedious and utterly crap. I’ve been content to defend Moyes on many occasions, but one of the 3 main chinks in his armoury is tactics/formation. The other 2 are stubbornness and substitutions/changing a game.

A lone striker can work if you have an attack minded midfield always looking to support and always close enough to him to make a difference.

We are deprived of the heart of our team (and I’m glad someone as astute as David Pleat helped to educate the dullards on TW who don’t appreciate what Neville does for us. But it looks like Moyes has just given up. Devoid of innovation or inspiration, every game utterly predictable in how (badly) we play and why.

Lord knows how it all clicked on 2004 (well, until January in any case) but it’s looking increasingly desperate now. We leak goals like we haven’t done for years. That puts extra pressure on the strikers to deliver. But the tactics, the fucking tactics... We just don’t seem to go out with any sense of a game plan to confuse or challenge the opposition.

Again, I’m not discounting our injuries because they have really fucked us over. But even taking that into account, Moyes has failed his test this season. We started the season with our now well established total lack of readiness, fitness and form (why??). It has continued by & large to now with Everton playing poorly in the vast majority of fixtures.

David Moyes is being paid best part of £4m a year to achieve something. It gives me no joy to have reached the almost unarguable conclusion that he has hit the ceiling and we now have nowhere else to go.
James Lauwervine
6   Posted 23/11/2009 at 09:32:24

Report abuse

Although overall Everton didn’t play well (yet again!), the crucial factor was the second goal. For 15-20 mins up to that point we looked like scoring and I thought we were going to. If we had, would we have sat back and tried to hang to that, or would we have pushed on for the victory...? I’ll let you work that one out, should take all of three seconds.

Chris Fisher
7   Posted 23/11/2009 at 09:57:23

Report abuse

For the first time actually ever Everton were on TV I had the power to watch them but I just couldn't bring myself to do it because I knew what the result would be. It was so predictable, I know some people would say, "Well, what did you expect against Man United?" but that's not the point — the point is I always at least feel some hope that we might get 3 points from any game.

Last season, there wasn't a game we played that I didn't think we could win; even if we were playing badly or had lost the last few games, I always felt we would win the next one... but not this season.

I don't really blame anyone, I think with a full squad we are match for anyone but, at the moment, with the injuries it really feels like the season is going to slip away. That's depressing because I love my football and I don't want to have to start thinking about how next season will be better.

I want to enjoy this season but I just can't get in to it. I desperatley hope that the next few games (especially the derby!) get us 6 points and we start to get going again and that we start to get some players back before Christmas is over and we have to settle for mid table (if were lucky?!) finish.

Nick Entwistle
8   Posted 23/11/2009 at 10:26:40

Report abuse

I knew we would lose, so Fletcher vollying in as if some Zidane style player was annoying, but unsurprising.

What disappointed myself was Everton tried passing it around, exactly as Utd were, but just didn’t know how to do it, or were just out of practise, Mr Moyes! Utd were consistently a thrid higher up the pitch when doing it also.

Nuts to it. We need a catalyst moment again, and if it isn’t against the RS then I doubt it will happen until Mikey and the gang are back.
Colin Malone
9   Posted 23/11/2009 at 11:26:05

Report abuse

Ajay Gopal. Fellaini's workrate off the ball is non-exsistent, When you're watching on television, the cameras only follow the ball, so you will not see the workrate Cahill does when he plays behind the front man, him and Osman or who ever compliment each other. Fellaini however just stays up front as though we are playing a 4-4-2.As he did in the cup final when Osman and Hibbert got roasted.

He has not got the stamina for the Premier League. So put Cahill back in his favoured position and watch the goals go in.

Ciarán McGlone
10   Posted 23/11/2009 at 11:59:14

Report abuse

If there was a league for playing the most amounts of right backs at any one stage - we’d be fucking top of it..

But then again - we can always blame our injuries on the inability of the players on the pitch to pass a fucking ball to a blue shirt...
Ciarán McGlone
11   Posted 23/11/2009 at 12:01:36

Report abuse

Oh, and it’ll all be fucking sorted once we get Neville back!

Even though we were just as shite before he got injured... or maybe Mr Pleat missed those games...

A disgruntled Dullard.
Sean McKenna
12   Posted 23/11/2009 at 13:15:59

Report abuse

It’s all wrong from start to finish, tactics, balance, passing, movement, commitment, leadership, players in wrong positions ffs it’s a joke!

I hear Moyes saying that Cahill and Saha played the game with knocks! Is he fucking stupid? Do you not think we have enough injuries?

There’s one thing I’ve learned from Saturday's game is that we will win nothing under Moyes, he hasn’t got the balls to try and win big games, you can’t defend defend defend forever!

How about something new? Try Agard on the right, Baines on the left, Dustin left back and Johnny and Yobo center... try somthing ffs!!

The fans are turning, Moyes... time to produce a pair of aces!!!

Gareth Humphreys
13   Posted 23/11/2009 at 13:49:14

Report abuse

Or you could say what else could David Moyes do? He tried to keep it tight and it worked to a certain extent with only a cracking strike seperating the teams. As such we needed to chase the game so he brought on the Yak and guess what we were ripped apart in the second half although we posed more threat going forward.

Perhaps he should have brought Hibbert on who was the only other first team player available? Wouldn’t really have pbr />We were playing away at the Champions with half a team missing for gods sake and got beat. Not exactly a suprise.

Dave Wilson
14   Posted 23/11/2009 at 14:15:55

Report abuse

Ha Ha, Ciarán. Don't worry mate, if we haven't won "the most number of right backs league" by Chrimbo, Alan Hutton is on his way, that should swing it.
Alan Kirwin
15   Posted 23/11/2009 at 14:41:02

Report abuse

Ciaran, you forgot to make your point. Are you for anything or simply against everything?
Ciarán McGlone
16   Posted 23/11/2009 at 16:13:59

Report abuse

I thought my point was quite obvious Alan. I could have emphasized it by calling everyone with a contrary opinion a dullard..but that seems to rather devalue the argument.

Just for you, I’ll explain it slowly. Phil Neville is a shit footballer, and this magical formulation which you and David Pleat seem to think would improve our game — did fuck all to improve it, when we were playing shit before he got injured.

It that clear enough for you? ’The heart of our team’ — emotive bollocks frankly.
Lyndon Lloyd
Editorial Team
17   Posted 23/11/2009 at 16:36:14

Report abuse

Phil Neville is a limited footballer and Lord knows I’ve wanted us to find a better replacement for him ever since Moyes decided to put him in midfield but the one thing he offers that could benefit the team right now is leadership on the field, because right now there’s precious little of it.
Ciarán McGlone
18   Posted 23/11/2009 at 16:51:03

Report abuse

Indeed Lyndon,

There are leadership issues, especially fom the top... but suggesting that the loss of Phil Neville has had a drastic effect ignores the empiricism that we’ve been shit since the start of the season... and Neville played in every match before his injury... hmmm... doesn’t seem like the addition of his leadership had that much of a effect then.

Basically, I see it as clutching at straws to suggest that a mediocre player will make a discernable difference whenever the problems are not primarily of leadeship... but of quality..

I don’t accept the analysis that ’leadership’, in the fom of Phil Neville will solve the problems we have with doing ’the bascis’... In fact, if anything, he’ll add to the problem due to his limitations.

It’s only natural that people grasp at straws in difficult situations... but to call people ’dullards’ because they are being rational about Neville's impact, and that rationale is supported by evidence from the start of the season, is frankly ludicrous.
Gavin Ramejkis
19   Posted 23/11/2009 at 18:14:23

Report abuse

I think DM and the players should all read this and offer the same for the gutless shite we have had on show far too many times this season, not just the Man U game.
Lyndon Lloyd
Editorial Team
20   Posted 23/11/2009 at 19:52:10

Report abuse

Agreed Ciarán. I wasn’t suggesting Neville would be a panacea for our current ills, just that he could add something in the way of backbone.
Dave Lynch
21   Posted 23/11/2009 at 21:08:59

Report abuse

I've posted on this before... All great teams have a leader and a good few of them have been limited players. Remember that horrible bastard Emlyn Hughes (not wanting to speak ill of the dead). He was shite, but a great leader.

John Terry isn’t what you would call a cultured footballer either. They are worth their weight in gold though, for what they bring to the table.

Dave Wilson
22   Posted 24/11/2009 at 05:49:06

Report abuse

Although Neville undoubtedly has leadership qualities Its unfair and a little silly to say that’s all he offers. This guy has a wealth of experience, he sees danger early and will offer much needed protection for our back four.

The people clamouring for Ossie, Hibbert and Neville to be replaced are now having their wisdom seriously examined.
Man U got down our right hand side twice as many times as Chelsea did in the cup final, they also got at our center backs with embarrassing ease. It wasn’t until the last game in April - Man City - when the "culprits " were finally beaten when playing together last season.

Ossie and Neville will be back, soon,
Everton will start to win - purely coincidentally - and the people who claim they should "never play for us again" will quickly find another player to misjudge.
Chris Butler
23   Posted 24/11/2009 at 11:35:42

Report abuse

I think this could be Moyes's, Arteta's,and Jagielka's last season. I think Moyes lost his idea that he's boss and no player is bigger than the club. I think Fellaini is one of the most lazy players in the Premier League; for this reason we need to make signings for January.
Tim Lloyd
24   Posted 24/11/2009 at 15:36:33

Report abuse

Ciaran, Are you deliberately choosing to ignore the fact that we went into the game against Man.U. with simply no skilful, constructive midfielders. Where was Pienaar, Arteta and to a lesser extent for the time being at least, Bily?

To go into a game without any midfield artists is asking for trouble and....we got it!

God knows when Arteta will actually return, I suspect maybe late February, early March. He won’t be struggling to get back during our mid winter.

Earlier, we all wanted Moysie to sign a really skilful midfield General He didn’t as we all know too well, Almost certainly there was no cash available, Therein lies the main cause for the pathetic results this year combined with notable improvements by some of our main competitors.

Just 3, repeat 3, more days. Will it be Yea or Nay. I suspect that the outcome may determine just where the old club will be heading in the future.
Andy Crooks
25   Posted 24/11/2009 at 15:44:42

Report abuse

I’ve noticed throughtout this site in the last couple of days that the tide seems to be turning against David Moyes. Contributors whom have eloquently defended him in the past are now having doubts.

In my view, he is now the main problem at Goodison Park. The players seem unmotivated,his tactics are inept and his bearing has markedly changed.
His standing as a manager peaked on Cup Final day last season at 3pm. He should have gone in the summer. He may well be here for a while yet but it will be to the detriment of himself and the club.

Bryan Douglas
26   Posted 24/11/2009 at 19:21:13

Report abuse


You describe a scenario that repeats itself every week on here. Nothing is new anymore. We all know what the problems are. Yet nothing happens. It amazes me that people still want to support this club.

Add Your Comments

In order to post a comment to Column articles, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.

Log in now

Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and MailBag submissions across the site.

© ToffeeWeb

We use cookies to enhance your experience on ToffeeWeb and to enable certain features. By using the website you are consenting to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.