VIEW FROM THE BLUE
Manchester United 1 - 0 Everton
Everton lost for the first time in eight games in what is arguably the most predictable fixture on their calendar as Javier Hernandez finally made the breakthrough that an increasingly unsettled Old Trafford crowd had been praying for. The Blues were six minutes ? 10 if you count stoppage time ? from successfully stymying United with a gritty defensive stand but an error in judgement by the otherwise impressive Sylvain Distin opened the door for Sir Alex Ferguson's men to grab the winner and consolidate their lead in the Premier League title race.
Everton arrived at Old Trafford with a recent League record surpassed only by Chelsea but also with the unwanted distinction of not having won on this ground for 19 years, and it seemed as though the psychology around the latter dominated their approach to this match. This was a team unrecognisable from the one that went to Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham and took the game to superior opposition to earn at least a point in all bar one of those games.
Instead, David Moyes executed his familiar Old Trafford gameplan of containment and heavy emphasis on defence and paid the price for a galling lack of adventure with a fifth straight defeat in these hostile environs.
Of course, no one should forget the handicaps on his team selection ? none of Marouane Fellaini, Mikel Arteta, Louis Saha or John Heitinga were available and Tim Cahill was only deemed fit enough to start on the bench ? but it's more or less been the same group of players that started today that have carried the Blues through a run of five wins in seven games.
The swagger, the sense of purpose and the convition that has characterised that recent unbeaten spell was wholly absent today, no more so than during an unforgiveably awful first half performance that surely would have been punished severely by United had Ferguson, with one eye on his upcoming Champions League commitments, not elected to field a much-weakened team.
Nevertheless, with Wayne Rooney and Hernandez leading the line and Antonio Valencia tearing Leighton Baines to shreds down the right, the home side had enough firepower on paper to get the job done. They found Distin and the magnificent Phil Jagielka in obdurate mood, though, and were frustrated not only by that pair's stoic defensive stand and also by Tim Howard who denied Nani by catching his effort after 12 minutes, turning Hernandez' shot from the angle behind after 24 and producing the save of the first half after half an hour, a double-handed parry to beat away another Hernandez effort after Rooney had played him in superbly.
United had the Blues' defence beaten all ends up seven minutes before the break, though, when Valencia was somehow allowed by referee Peter Walton to shove Baines off the ball with his hand and cross low for Nani but the Portuguese's goalbound shot deflected off the foot of the prone Hernandez and past the post.
Everton, for what little part they played in the opposition half, managed just one shot on goal in the entire first half, a powder-puff effort by last weekend's star of the show, Leon Osman. At the heart of their problem was a near total inability to keep possession. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, who looked like he was playing in cement boots encased in lead, seemed to give the ball away at every opportunity, Osman was back to running into cul-de-sacs and being easily pushed off the ball, and Jermaine Beckford's perplexing unwillingness to leave the floor to challenge for any long ball meant that anything lumped up to the forward line came straight back.
There was precious little width, either, with Seamus Coleman, back in the starting line-up after recovering from injury, playing more like a fourth central midfielder for most of the first 45 minutes. It made for dismal viewing for the traveling faithful but their team at least made it to the interval on level terms.
Moyes responded positively enough at half time by withdrawing his two least productive players in Beckford and Bilyaletdinov and throwing on Cahill and Victor Anichebe and the improvement was almost immediate. Everton actually made a decent fist of the early stages of the second half and were appealing in vain for a penalty 10 minutes in when Anichebe burst past Rio Ferdinand and then tumbled under contact from the defender.
Of course, with no team having been awarded a penalty in the League at Old Trafford for the past 11 years ? could there be more stark evidence of the refereeing bias, conscious or otherwise, that exists on this ground? ? the chances were slim that the Blues would get the decision they so badly wanted and referee Walton duly waved play on. With Anichebe having prodded the ball too close to Edwin van der Sar and then appearing to go down too easily, Everton would need a more convincing case to defy history.
It was indicative of the change in both personnel and approach by Moyes that United didn't come close to scoring for a full quarter of an hour after half time, not until Darren Gibson's half-volley cannoned off Jagielka's back and flew over the bar.
Indeed, it was at the other end where the first goal so nearly arrived. After a pleasing spell of pressure by the visitors, Jack Rodwell found space for a shot from 20 yards that was destined to creep inside the far post until Van der Sar finger-tipped it wide at full stretch.
But Ferguson's side began to reassert their control after that and even with Cahill and the more robust Anichebe up front, the ball just wasn't sticking in forward areas for Everton. The Blues were riding their luck at times, none more so than when Fabio's cross from the byline ricocheted off Distin and onto the post, and It seemed only a matter of time before United found a way through.
Howard then impressively pushed Rooney's direct free kick over the bar and saved his best moment for the 81st minute when Hernandez seemed to certain to score with a header at the back post but the American 'keeper acrobatically pawed his shot over from close range.
Ultimately, after defending so diligently for 83 minutes, the Blues were undone by a moment of hestitation by Distin in the middle of his own half. Instead of making a routine clearance under pressure, the Frenchman tried to bring the ball down and move into space but when it clipped a United player's foot and fell to Valencia, the Everton defender was left crucially out of position. Valencia crossed from the right and Hernandez rose unmarked at the back post to squeeze a header past Howard. 1-0, game over.
Everton did try to mount a late assault with some sporadic attacks but the game was clearly lost and another defeat on this ground was in the books.
It's true that only West Bromwich Albion have come to Old Trafford and got anything this season, such a fortress this has been for Sir Alex's men, and it's equally true that this is an under-strength Everton team. But United were well below strength too and the Blues played so far below what they've shown themselves to be capable of recent weeks that we'll never know what might have happened had they really gone out and given it a really good go.
The fear, the crushing inferiority complex that plagued Everton against the top sides seems to have been eradicated against the other teams mentioned earlier but on this ground against this club, Moyes just can't seem to get it anywhere close to right. With nothing much to lose, he could have sent his side out to attack and even having escaped to half-time goalless his players lacked the conviction to take the game to their opponents in the second half. And so it goes in this fixture into a 20th year without an Everton victory...
Player Ratings: Howard 8, Hibbert 6, Jagielka 9*, Distin 7, Baines 5, Coleman 5 (Gueye 6), Rodwell 6, Neville 6, Osman 5, Bilyaletdinov 3 (Cahill 6), Beckford 4 (Anichebe 7)
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1 Posted 23/04/2011 at 17:46:16
If we had played a more open game we would have been stuffed good style !!
2 Posted 23/04/2011 at 17:46:11
3 Posted 23/04/2011 at 17:52:34
Bilyletdinov was so absent it was like playing with 10 men in the first half.
And Beckford offers no real goal threat. Hernandez was a continued threat for the entire game for Man Utd. But Beckford never looked like causing them any problems and he cant even hold the ball up to give the defense a break.
Moyes to his credit was proactive with his substitutions correctly removing both Bilyletdinov and Beckford at half time.
The replacements worked to a degree with Cahill working harder then Bily did and even though Anichebe offered no real goal threat he was at least more physical then Beckford. Moyes also introduced Guaye a bit later.
But the problem is Bilyletdinov, Beckford, Anichebe and Guaye are not good enough to actually worry Man Utd.
Everton are a couple of really good players short of troubling Man Utd.
If Moyes had had the likes of Fellaini, Arteta, Pienaar and Saha available to him today it really could have been a different story.
4 Posted 23/04/2011 at 18:06:22
As we found at Goodison a year ago, United will often give you the space to play but we simply couldn't find a Blue shirt consistently enough today. So part of the blame is on the players but I think it was again a case of us having lost the game in our heads before it started.
We had bugger all to lose today by going out and giving it a go but we didn't even do that.
5 Posted 23/04/2011 at 18:11:48
6 Posted 23/04/2011 at 18:19:34
7 Posted 23/04/2011 at 18:21:04
Don't forget, United are in end-of-season turbo mode and were never going to drop points at Old Trafford. If we play with as much application in our remaining fixtures, we will get the wins required to consolidate a top 7 finish, which would mean we've only finished outside the top 7 twice in six years ? a fantastic record and proves we are just a couple of players away from really competing with the likes of United for Champions League places... not that I expect us to sign those couple of players with our budget.
8 Posted 23/04/2011 at 18:33:41
9 Posted 23/04/2011 at 18:49:06
The headline reads "I scored goal that beat Utd last year... I'll do the same today".
If only you were that good Jack. If only you were as good as you think you are and not Everton's most average sideways passing player.
10 Posted 23/04/2011 at 18:48:37
But no... we'll keep it tight, invite constant Man Utd pressure, offer nothing going forward, and then succumb to the inevitable and hoof everything forward to try and equalise. It's so predictable it's depressing.
This game more than any other this season confirms that we'll never achieve anything under David Moyes. His deeply ingrained fear of the big boys means that he'll always be Mr Cautious; will always see attacking as an extravagant luxury a team like us can't afford to meddle with.
Yet another live TV embarrassment; one that confirms the 'dogged and plucky Everton' stereotype that I for one am fucking sick of.
11 Posted 23/04/2011 at 18:46:50
As it was, they almost ran out of ideas and we almost sneaked one.
Our midfield was non-existent ? Bily has to be the biggest waste of money since Betamax video recorders and just as useless.
Rodwell, is either carrying an injury or already picturing his glittering career as one of SAF's 'discoveries'. He's nowhere near the same player he was last season ? he looked vacant (Apart from that grubber shot).
As to those saying we should have gone all out and attacked them ? well, I reckon the manager agreed with you as all I could hear was Moyes screaming to players to 'move up' 'move up'. The reason for this ? nobody in midfield could hold possession and nobody seemed to be arsed to try.
It's a pity, because with Fellaini, Arteta and Hetinga I'd have quite fancied us today...
Ah well ? there's always next season...
12 Posted 23/04/2011 at 19:05:48
I do blame Moyes for his purchasing policy but not so much for his tactics today ? I don't think we had any alternative.
Surely Bily has demonstrated that he will never truly cut it at PL level. And neither will Anichebe for that matter.
Attacking alternatives for next season please and then have a go at United.
13 Posted 23/04/2011 at 19:17:27
14 Posted 23/04/2011 at 19:19:26
If it's Moyes's purchasing over the last 100 years (that's what it feels like) dictates his tactics, it's his fault, full stop.
I just don't get this admission by all and sundry about the Moyes mis-management followed by justification.
15 Posted 23/04/2011 at 19:40:42
Also, I don't but that 'If we only had Fellani etc' we always play the same at OT: defend deep and try to nick it. It's all very well Moyes screaming to keep it high but he sets the team up and must know that it will always be pushed back...
16 Posted 23/04/2011 at 19:52:09
17 Posted 23/04/2011 at 19:58:26
18 Posted 23/04/2011 at 20:12:18
19 Posted 23/04/2011 at 20:01:57
We do OK and can survive in the Premier League with a virtually NIL transfer budget. Average players with no real stars except in defence.
Looking at things realistically, we do not have many players on the books who would bring us much money from transfers apart from the one's we MUST keep. Collectively, the Yak, Vaughan, Yobo and co are either past it or not looking good enough for Premier League football...
I said years ago that we should have gone for Zamora when he was available at a small fee... instead, we take the Yak (who constantly moves from club to club), Saha (who was released free from United and injury prone) and Beckford (another freebee who cannot play alone up front and desperately needs a strike partner to allow him space). we do not have the means to be able to afford a decent, fit foil for the lad so he may as well be moved on....
Considering the paucity of decent players DM has that are fit to play, I am amazed at the success so far. I have said it before and I frankly believe that BK is a clone of Faust and has sold his soul to the devil... How else can he continue to play brinkmanship football mismanagement and keep EFC in the Premier League?
20 Posted 23/04/2011 at 20:59:12
21 Posted 23/04/2011 at 21:25:30
Not wanting to sound like a twisted kopite, Peter Walton should not be let near a league game higher than Division 2, he makes Atkinson and Webb look good.
22 Posted 23/04/2011 at 21:55:34
23 Posted 23/04/2011 at 20:49:01
Now it clearly showed why Osman has never really made the grade. Against a better team which keeps the pressure on, he just can't shield the ball, can't pass accurately, and gets caught too often.
Hibbo is brave but very often his positioning lets him down. Sometimes it's not his fault, though, because one of the centre-backs should be covering the striker.
Baines is a little too lightweight for a fullback. Valencia beat him by force very easily a couple of times. I think he should be played as a wing back or a winger.
Distin is such a great player and then he makes a mistake like the one that led to the goal. Left footed guy as he is, he did not trust his right foot to pass it back to Howard but instead tried to hoof it. Ok, it was late in the game, he was tired, but still...
Beckford was really bad, his first touch is very poor and the body language is all about frustration and agony.
Bily was even worse. I like the guy, he is very talented and could give very much to the team but it looked like he gave the hosts too much respect (like Osman).
Cahill is so unfit it's a disgrace. Anichebe was not as bad as I thought he would be but still did not do much.
Rodwell is good but needs a little more time and will probably get that at the hosts.
Phil Neville did ok today, his passing is wayward pretty often but he does not hide.
This time Moyes did try to change things and he subbed the guys that underperformed. Sadly, it did not help much as we didn't have anything on the bench. Overall, it looked like Everton would not mind the Mancs winning if it was done with the "best possible taste". That is, don't hurt us too deep, make it look like we tried.
The "ref" Walton (some irony there!) was as bad as the commentators. Once when we were attacking, there was a 20-yard pass that he couldn't dodge because it was Everton attacking and we couldn't have that couldn't we? It got ridiculous at some point when he gave them a corner where everybody else saw it was a goal kick.
Walton did not win the game for Mancs but the general attitude of his and the various commentators everywhere is clear: Man Utd has more money and therefore they have to win. Any other result should be avoided. The Premier League is fastly moving to a point where winners and losers are more or less predefined, like in the "professional wrestling".
24 Posted 23/04/2011 at 23:37:12
25 Posted 24/04/2011 at 00:08:52
What's most annoying is teams like Liverpool can often go to Old Trafford and get something thorugh relentless clsoing down. We didn't even do that, if the brief before the game was to defend we made a bad job of it. Baines showed why Cole still gets in the England side: another goal from that side, he cannot stay in position. Distin was always bound to make one gaffe when he's doing two people's jobs.
There was also a horrible lack of pace thorughout the entire team. 37-year-old Giggs tearing past our right side was horrible to watch, as was Rooney swanning round in centre-mid towards the end like some luxury car on show.
26 Posted 24/04/2011 at 00:05:45
Slight mis-jugdement by the boys cost us, but thought we deserved a point, Jags and Distin were immense for me. Thought Osman did well in terms of holding the ball up and keeping possesion, but lack of options for him to play the ball perhaps cost us the chances to win the game.
27 Posted 24/04/2011 at 00:36:23
28 Posted 24/04/2011 at 08:43:09
1 ? They play to space, we play to feet, so their attacks keep moving swiftly ? although your players have to put the effort in to make this work.
2 ? None of the "holding the ball up" nonsense. When they attack, they do it quickly and in numbers.
See Ray's comments at No 12:
"We have no wingers, no pace and no real strikers? So how could Moyes have played this game any differently? This game didn't so much show Everton's undoubted inferiority complex when playing at OT as a complete lack of counter-attacking prowess which has existed for some years under Moyes"
Agreed, Ray. I am pro-Moyes because, under the useless, miserly Kenwright, no manager we could afford could have done a better job than he. But his negative approach to the game is infuriating ? like that old chestnut of not leaving a single player up for corners.
29 Posted 24/04/2011 at 08:55:37
I suspect if Moyes went gung-ho we may have lost by 3 or 4 goals and then everyone would be saying why on earth would you go out so attacking at Old Trafford against one of the best counter-attacking teams in Europe!!
30 Posted 24/04/2011 at 10:38:20
When Roy Keane managed Sunderland (?) he said most teams had lost the game in the tunnel at Old Trafford... a lot of truth in that I think. I believe, if we had taken the game to them, they weren't strong enough to cope with the displays we've had in the last few weeks... but the score stands so it doesn't really matter does it! Rooney still shouting at the camera I see, but without the expletives!
I streamed the match so didn't need to watch MotD ? I presume we weren't on last?!
31 Posted 24/04/2011 at 11:57:40
Plus a lot of people are making the point that, if Moyes had gone gung-ho, etc etc... Bollocks! He doesn't have to go gung-ho ? just not send a team out beaten before the game has started. In Nani & Valencia they have two very good wingers, but the CMs Anderson & Gibson are OK; we had an extra man in midfield but couldn?t stop them dictating the play. FFS, run about a bit higher up the pitch and close them down a la giantkillers and stop the supply to the wings!!!
Away from home, Man U have won 5 games, but at home they?ve only dropped 2 points and they haven?t conceded a goal in the 1st half, so does it mean that they haven?t had an off day or a defensive lapse and if so they must rank as one of the greatest teams of all time, or does it point to managers giving a shithouse team talk along the lines of "We?ve got no chance here boys, keep it tight and try and nick one in the last 5 mins, when they?re starting to tire after pummeling us for the whole game."
Look at the hoof after hoof to Beckford from Howard, Moyes must?ve woke up that morning and decided that he was in fact Peter Crouch... what does that tell you? ? to me it screams out "Clear your lines; if the ball is in their half, it isn?t in ours, feed off scraps, we might get lucky" ? rather than setting out a team to compete with the opposition regardless of who the opposition is.
So I don?t expect us to do a Blackpool, or play with 10 upfront like a gang of kids, but play without this inferiority complex that we always adopt at OT despite being the form side and Man U missing as many of their fist team as us, albeit their 2nd string could walk into most teams.
32 Posted 24/04/2011 at 13:11:05
33 Posted 24/04/2011 at 13:16:38
Anichebe to his credit did his job: battling ram up front and knock down the ball to Cahill. Too bad the whole world knows his limitations, and the only real threat was to look out for a Cahill header off a Baines cross. Our offense today was not good enough to break down Man Utd.
Towards the end, the players tired and eventually the mistake came when we lose possession under little pressure and they caught us at the break. When you look at their goal, you think we don't have any striker who could produce that kind of moment, speed and jumping header.
34 Posted 24/04/2011 at 14:20:24
Too many talk the talk. It was total shit watching Everton not walk the walk, absolutely clueless in attack.
35 Posted 24/04/2011 at 14:35:38
I remember a couple of years ago reading an article from Rob Styles in his last season; he said he always felt if the Kop shouted handball or offside, then they have seen something. If I had been the FA, he would never had been let loose with a whistle ever again.
36 Posted 24/04/2011 at 18:47:31
We played to the best of our very limited ability with a weakened team. If we had 'done a Blackpool' we would have got murdered.
Hernandez is much smaller than Beckford but he is much more intelligent and knows how to find space. We had no one upfront who could hurt them!! Our defenders kept the score down.
37 Posted 24/04/2011 at 20:25:45
Barkley is a better prospect than Rodwell; the others? That leaves us plenty to replace deadwood.
38 Posted 24/04/2011 at 21:17:41
39 Posted 24/04/2011 at 21:19:14
Say, however, football went even more insane and we raised £43 million. It certainly won't be handed to Moyes to replace dead wood. Fellaini is our most valuable asset but selling him would greatly reduce the little quality we have and not all of any money raised will be handed to David Moyes.
I think that Bily is a good player but a confidence player. Bit parts and being played out of position might just have damaged him beyond repair as far as Premier League football goes. I'll be surprised if he features much again. It is disappointing such money was spent so quickly without, it appears, the prudence that a broke club should apply in every financial dealing.
40 Posted 24/04/2011 at 21:39:54
If the likes of Baines, Jags and Co were enticed away then we will be in deep shit. Most players want trophies and I just hope that our better players stay loyal. We must unload our dead wood and show ambition by buying a decent striker and wide player. We also desperately need cover at left back.
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