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Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester
Premier League
 Saturday 23 April; 12:45pm
MAN UTD
1 0
 EVERTON
Hernandez (84')
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 75,300
Fixture 34
Referee: Peter Walton

Match Summary

Mikel Arteta was not fit to return but Cahill did make the bench against Man Utd's reserves. It started as a nice open passing game from both sides in the glorious sunshine, most of the possession dominated by the home side. Rooney set as the playmaker with the Blues backing off and showing respect

A free kick on 10 mins given away by Fabio was delivered really well by Baines but the line advanced too far and could not profit. A nervy corner at the other end bounced around dangerously. The Man Utd attacks increased in intensity and as Everton seemed a little intimidated by the hosts and the location, losing possession with little if any end product.

Bilyaletdinov was having an odd game, Fabio robbing him easily, Bily diving poorly, failing to get a free-kick, then fouling Fabio to end a rare attack. Meanwhile Hernandez got a sight of goal but Howard stood firm. Everton were concentrating on defence but it was being penetrated a little too easily at times.

Beckford was getting little service and showed his poor touch when coming out wide, putting a ball straight out of play under no pressure. Hernandez got another golden chance, set up by a brilliant ball from Rooney that sliced diagonally through the Everton defence but Howard pulled off an excellent reaction save, and even came to punch the resulting corner!!

Beckford did finally get a nice ball in from Osman but lost it all too easily under dubious pressure. As half-time approached, Man Utd looked to score easily when Valencia was allowed to blatantly push Baines away and cross for Nani to score easiy but Hernandez on the ground bizarrely deflected it wide!

Rooney then beat the offside trap and looked odds on to punish the Blues but Everton defenders were back to prevent his cross when he chickened out of a direct shot. The Blues gameplan of "we have what we hold" worked effectively to get rhe Blues to teh half-time. 

At the restart, a very surprising decision by Moyes, pulling off both Beckford and Bily to bring on Anichebe and Cahill!  I didn't see that one coming at all...  Everton looked  calmer and moved the ball more confidently, looking more inclined to move the ball forward.  A smart Jagielka free-kick was laid back well by Cahill but Coleman's shot barely troubled the corner flag. 

Everton were having a lot more of the play but Utd attacked quickly after easily dispossessing Coleman and Jagielka needed to be alert to slide in and whip the ball dramatically away from the incoming Rooney.  Anderson went in the book for a poor foul on Coleman, the Cahilll foolwed him for a clumsy challenge.  Anichebe then got free of Ferdinand and had a run into the United box but he went down a little too easily by  what looked like a foul from Ferdinand... but off course no penalty was given.

It was a much more even game since the break, but near the hour, a determined attack by United put Everton under pressure, but some excellent blocks by Jagielka and Distin broke things down.  But around the hour mark, United increased the pressure again and Nani was replace by Michael Owen.

Into the last 25 mins and Everton started to play a bit. Osman made a good roun down the left but his cross was deflected away.  Osman then set up Rodwell for an all-too-rare shot that deflected off Evans's leg and forced a superb save by Van der Saar to deflect it inches past the post. 

Anderson looked to get a god cross in but Jagielka was there again and Baines was soon off on a run; however, his cross was easily blocked.  Another very dangerous cross from Evra was clipped out of the Everton goal area by Jagielka, then the post rescued Everton off Distin's clearance under pressure from Owen as Ryan Giggs came on; also, Gueye for Coleman with 15 tantalizing minutes left. Could Everton grab that vital goal? Or would one of United's increasingly desperate attacks succeed?

Cahill was poor when relieving the pressure, failing to release Anichebe and inviting yet another unrelenting United attack.  Jagielka then caught Hernandez to give away a free-kick that Rooney fired to the top corner but Howard had it well covered.  Rooney then screwed a shot wide as Everton entered the last 10 mins still frustrating their illustrious hosts. 

More nervy moments followed as United attacked again, Valencia's fierce pile-driver was blocked away, and his follow-up chip to the far post setting up Hernandez to head in but Howard produced a wonderful save to deny him. But minutes later and a similar move did beat Howard off a deflected cross, the American unable to do anything about it as Everton's too predictable gameplan finally collapsed in ruins.

Ultimately, Moyes's familiar tactic of holding out and hoping to perhaps grab something lay in tatters and all that desperate defending counted for nothing. Once again, this was a game and an opportunity, against Ferguson's second string, where a more adventurous approach from the supposed form team of the moment yes, Everton might have paid off. But Moyes, despite that ultimately meaningless half-time change, all too predictably came a cropper again to his old Glasgow neighbour.

Michael Kenrick

Match Report

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)

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

Another year, another reminder of just how truly awful Everton's record at Old Trafford has been over the past two decades. Every season offers hope that the Blues can somehow snatch a first win on Manchester United's turf since 1992 but when faced with the weight of recent history and statistics, you just set your jaw and hope for a gritty draw.

Not since Mo Johnston was leading the line in the inaugural Premier League season have Everton beaten United in the so-called Theatre of Dreams, that 3-0 victory standing as the lone aberration in Sir Alex Ferguson's home record against the Blues. Indeed, only three times have Everton scored more than one goal at Old Trafford since and in that time have picked up just three points.

Of course, if David Moyes is going to address that dismal record this weekend against a United side once again driving on towards the Title, he's going to score a first for the 2010-11 season: the Red Devils are unbeaten at home.

There are glimmers of hope going into this televised lunchtime kick-off, though. For a start, the Blues have very little to lose heading down the home stretch of the campaign. European qualification is a remote possibility and as Moyes's side navigate a thorny part of their fixture calendar, the spotlight will be on Liverpool and Tottenham above them as everyone assumes it will be they who duke it out for fifth place.

Secondly, Everton could welcome back both Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill in some capacity this weekend as both appear close to being passed fit after spending the last few games on the sidelines with hamstring and ankle injuries respectively.

And then there's the Blues' recent League form. Over the last eight games, only Chelsea have a better record (though, unsuprisingly, United are a close third) and what's more, they have achieved it with some of their best players lying on the treatment table — no Fellaini, no Saha, no Arteta, Cahill or Rodwell — and that has allowed the likes of Leon Osman to pick up the slack, often in admirable fashion and to great effect.

Osman has taken his share of flack over the years for his frustrating erraticism and lack of physical presence but he orchestrated last weekend's comfortable win over Blackburn. He has struggled to perform consistently against the top clubs, even in his favoured central attacking midfield role, but will likely be asked to pull the strings once again this weekend with neither Arteta nor Cahill likely to start.

Elsewhere in the side, John Heitinga will undergo a fitness test to see if he has shrugged off the hamstring strain he picked up last Saturday but Rodwell will be on hand to deputise in central midfield alongside Neville if he has not.

Jermaine Beckford will probably fill the lone striker's role, though hopefully more effectively than he did last week when, a first minute snapshot aside, he managed to personify the term anonymous.

United for their part could be without the in-form Dimitar Berbatov who has a groin strain but with their strength in depth, that's unlikely to be much of a hindrance.

Key to the Blues' chances will be remaining tight at the back, soaking up a lot pressure and then having the stones to have a go at the other end. Teams have come to Old Trafford and given Sir Alex's team something to think about in the past and sometimes grabbed the glory because of it. Somehow I think we're overdue...

Lyndon Lloyd

* Unfortunately, we cannot control other sites' content policies and therefore cannot guarantee that links to external reports will remain active.

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MAN UNITED (4-4-2)
  Van der Sar
  Ferdinand
  Fabio da Silva
  O'Shea (57' Evra)
  Evans
  Anderson :54'
  Nani (63' Owen)
  Valencia
  Gibson (74' Giggs)
  Rooney
  Hernandez
  Subs not used
  Kuszczak
  Brown
  Rafael
  Carrick

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Howard :82'
  Hibbert
  Jagielka
  Distin
  Baines
  Neville
  Rodwell
  Coleman (78' Gueye)
  Bilyaletdinov (46' Cahill :55')
  Osman
  Beckford (46' Anichebe)
  Subs not used
  Mucha
  Mustafi
  Duffy
  Vellios
  Unavailable
  Arteta (injured)
  Barkley (injured)
  Baxter (injured)
  Fellaini (injured)
  Heitinga (injured)
  Saha (injured)
  Agard (loan)
  Akpan (loan)
  Silva (loan)
  Turner (loan)
  Vaughan (loan)
  Wallace (loan)
  Yakubu (loan)
  Yobo (loan)

Premier League Scores
Saturday
Aston Villa 1-1 Stoke City
Blackpool 1-1 Newcastle
Chelsea 3-0 West Ham
Liverpool 5-0 Birmingham
Man Utd 1-0 Everton
Sunderland 4-2 Wigan
Tottenham 2-2 West Brom
Wolves 1-1 Fulham
Sunday
Bolton 2-1 Arsenal
Monday
Blackburn 0-1 Man City
Tuesday
Stoke 3-0 Wolves
Wednesday
Fulham 3-0 Bolton


Team Pts
1 Manchester United 73
2 Chelsea 67
3 Arsenal 64
4 Manchester City 59
5 Tottenham Hotspur 55
6 Liverpool 52
7 Everton 47
8 Bolton Wanderers 46
9 Fulham 42
10 Stoke City 42
11 Newcastle United 41
12 Sunderland 41
13 Aston Villa 41
14 West Bromwich Albion 40
15 Birmingham City 38
16 Blackburn Rovers 35
17 Blackpool 34
18 Wigan Athletic 34
19 Wolverhampton Wanderers 33
20 West Ham United 32



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