VIEW FROM THE BLUE
Everton 0 - 1 Manchester United
Everton slipped to 16th in the Premier League with their fifth defeat in six games in all competitions as their "month of death" came to a welcome close as Manchester United departed from Goodison Park this afternoon with another three points, albeit their first victory in this fixture in four seasons.
Hoping to catch the Champions reeling from that unbelievable 6-1 home defeat to Manchester City, the Blues instead found Sir Alex Ferguson's men in organised and clinical mood and it just needed a solitary goal by Javier Hernandez, scored in the 19th minute, to get the job done for United. For try as they did, Everton just couldn't bridge the very visible gulf in quality between the two sides and apart from some well-struck efforts from Jack Rodwell, the Blues didn't really look likely to claw their way back into the match.
Shorn of the suspended Royston Drenthe and injured trio Tim Cahill, Phil Neville and Sylvain Distin, David Moyes had to make a number of changes to the team that started against Chelsea, including the inclusion once again of Leon Osman behind Louis Saha, Phil Jagielka alongside John Heitinga and Seamus Coleman on the right flank.
The Blues started brightly but could only muster a tame left-footed shot by Coleman before the visitors took a decisive grip on the game and after Leighton Baines' clearance went straight to a red shirt and Patrice Evra was found on the United left, the Frenchman delivered a dangerous cross into the six-yard box and Hernandez converted with a simple finish.
Weathering a difficult spell in which United pressed for a killer second goal, the Blues started to come back into things more in the final 15 minutes before half time but a feature of the first half was just how much quicker their opponents were in thought and deed and how efficiently they supported the man with the ball. Everton, by contrast, struggled to move the ball effectively through United's midfield and defence and that mostly restricted the home side's threat to shots from outside the area and set pieces.
Unfortunately, even there Everton came up short, with Baines failing to beat the first man from a corner and a free kick routine ended with Saha's shot being charged down by an advancing defender. Nine minutes before the break, though, the Blues carved out two chances to level the scores: first, when Marouane Fellaini's knock-down fell to Osman but he scuffed an effort straight at David De Gea; and then when Rodwell intercepted a pass superbly before advancing forward and firing a yard wide from 20 yards.
When Darren Fletcher fouled Fellaini just outside the United area six minutes before the break, however, Baines was presented with an opportunity in his favorite area of the pitch but while he duly swerved his free kick up over the wall and sent it spinning towards the opposite corner from where De Gea was standing, the ball smacked off the crossbar and United were able to clear. It was an agonising moment ? the 'keeper was beaten all ends up, it just needed to be a couple of inches lower.
To their credit, Everton kept pressing right up to the half-time whistle and some lovely skill by Coleman where he spun around two red shirts just inside the box and helped the ball on towards Saha unfortunately ended with the French striker shooting straight at the goalkeeper.
Using the interval to address one of his two main problems in the match, Moyes decided to withdraw Diniyar Bilyletdinov in favour of Ross Barkley at the start of the second half. The Russian had had a few decent moments but he and Baines were on completely different wavelengths in the first 45 minutes and if the manager wasn't going to move him inside to replace the equally ineffective Osman, then it made sense to take him off.
The frustrating part was that, having frozen Barkley out of Premier League action since late August and publicly cited his mistakes at Blackburn as justification, Moyes had set the lad up to fail against one of the two best teams in the country. Apart from a few impressive minutes after he came on, the 17 year-old struggled to find another blue jersey and was largely disappointing at a time when Everton really needed some drive and guile.
By contrast, Rodwell was displaying all the benefits of an extended run in the first team with an impressively mature display in the middle and when Coleman dispossessed Evra and laid the ball on for the midfielder, Rodwell stung the palms of De Gea with a powerful drive that the 'keeper could only parry away to safety.
United were content to sit back at this point and try and hit their hosts on the break, which they almost did successfully in the 62nd minute when Tim Howard pushed Danny Welbeck's driven shot from the angle over the bar. Everton maintained their momentum and possession for long periods in the second half but it was clear that the loss of the likes of Mikel Arteta and Steven Pienaar, players with that little bit of craft and invention, has cripped the Blues' prospects of beating the best sides in the division.
Osman was eventually swapped with Apostolos Vellios with 15 minutes left but with Everton struggling to clear-cut create opportunities, the chances that either the young Greek or Magaye Gueye, who came on for Saha eight minutes later, making a impact from the bench were slim. And so it proved; Rodwell and Coleman had half-chances but shot wide and at De Gea respectively before Vellios' low shot concluded the contest as De Gea comfortably gathered after seven minutes of stoppage time.
Sadly, this was one of those days where you just had to acknowledge the huge disparity in the resources at the disposal of Moyes and Ferguson. United's line-up was hardly their strongest and yet they won this game fairly comfortably against an Everton side that just didn't have the creativity or ideas to break them down. Given how lively Drenthe was against Chelsea, it's possible he could have made a significant difference but we'll never know. And from a team-selection stand-point, you could really only raise the old chestnut that Bilyaletdinov is not and never will be an effective winger by way of criticism of Moyes.
I still maintain that Barkley should be getting regular action off the bench in the coming weeks as he seeks to reestablish his confidence and touch, and it would be nice to see more of Gueye but the Blues' biggest problems lie in the Boardroom where a chronic lack of investment in players has come home to roost. Until something significant happens on that front, Everton FC will once again also-rans in the Premier League who will do well to finish in the top ten this season.
Player Ratings: Howard 7, Hibbert 7, Jagielka 6, Heitinga 7, Baines 6, Rodwell 8*, Fellaini 7, Coleman 7, Bilyaletdinov 5 (Barkley 5), Osman 5 (Vellios 6), Saha 6 (Gueye 6)
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1 Posted 29/10/2011 at 23:47:26
I am completely baffled as to what Moyes and Leon's fan club see in him. What I see is someone who is slow over the ground, weak in the tackle, no power in his shot, and ? for someone who is supposedly creative ? he creates very little.
Bily is pretty much the same. To see him and Leon enter the field caused such an involuntary moan of despair from me. it brought my dear wife rushing from her bed.
2 Posted 30/10/2011 at 00:44:18
By comparison I'm impressed with Hibbert of late. Yes, I'd love someone better but the lad's got balls. Up and down the wing, taking responsibility for attacking when others won't.
3 Posted 30/10/2011 at 01:26:40
The game also showed how much we need some quality wide players. Seamus and DB are square pegs in round holes. DB I would just once like to see him play off the lone striker, when he does pick up the ball in the right areas, he looks like there could be goals in him but, after that display, he will probably not get a look-in for some time, whereas Osman, despite being just as bad, will, I am sure, start next week!
I thought we did okay today. I don't see how anyone could question our desire or effort to win the game and at least we had a "go" this time, unlike the tame showing against Man City. Quality-wise, however, we were definitely a bit short.
4 Posted 30/10/2011 at 01:24:49
Who are the candidates who have been tried? Arteta shone there breifly but is now gone; Anichebe (whatever the question is, he is not the answer); Bily (Aaargh!); Osman... Gueye ? maybe, needs a run to see; Barkley, no centre-mid or nothing,; Drenthe may be a bit too direct to link up with Baines in the way Pienaar did... [scrapes barrel]... Coleman; McFadden; Baxter; Cahill.
Back full circle... Q) fed up of being a no-mark at Spurs yet, Stevie? Fancy a loan 'til the end of the season? ... I wish.
But wish into one hand and shit into the other and see which fills up first.
5 Posted 30/10/2011 at 01:33:06
6 Posted 30/10/2011 at 01:40:28
7 Posted 30/10/2011 at 06:08:51
Beg to differ, mate ? the Pienaar deal definitely helped Spurs. It robbed Everton of its most potent attacking option (Baines & Pienaar), for a mere 2 million pounds. Effectively cancelling out the threat of Everton finishing above Spurs in the table. If they sell him on, they will make a handsome return on their investment. Very clever bit of business by Levin and Rednap.
However, here is something to think about: what was the true market value of the Baines + Pienaar combination? ? in other words, what would the price have been if someone had come in for both of them at the same time? I reckon somewhere between ¬£17m and ¬£20m.
This Christmas the sharks will start circling again. Fellas, that's the difference money makes and that is why Everton Football Club desperately need investment.
8 Posted 30/10/2011 at 07:44:01
9 Posted 30/10/2011 at 09:54:05
10 Posted 30/10/2011 at 09:34:47
I`m a great believer that if you are good enough, you`re old enough... but the circumstances have to be right.
It's okay to play youngsters regularly if you are going to improve them, but to do that you have to have top players around them. When SAF blooded Giggs, Beckham & Butt, they were terrific, but they had the best keeper in the world behind them, the meanest defence, they where able to learn from world class players like Keane and Cantona.
Rooney was the same, Ronaldo took all the pressure off him and he was able to develop. Even Pele was surrounded by truely great players.
Not many players are good enough to play at the highest level at 17; those who do it successfully invariably have better players to guide them.
I will always be grateful for the efforts people like Osman, Cahill, Neville, Hibbert, Jagielka etc... and when they are done I will remember them with affection, but they are budget players, they`re better without the ball than they are with it. Barkley is a cut above, he will learn nothing from them ? except they are not "natural footballers" who will make his job easier.
I believe Moyes is doing the right thing with Barkley ? although I`m not sure he`s doing it for the right reasons; he`s too young to be saddled with the responsibilty of being "playmaker" and his best chance will be to come back regularly when Rodwell ? who has already had to learn the hard way ? is mature enough help him along.
Of course the tragic reality is, that he can be fast tracked to stardom simply by telling Everton what to do with their contract... heartbreaking.
11 Posted 30/10/2011 at 06:11:16
12 Posted 30/10/2011 at 16:52:59
Here's what I know: a 17 year-old kid came into a depleted side at the beginning of the season and was easily among its best performers until a youngster's error (that back pass at Blackburn, the kind that Jagielka, with all his experience, manages once a season).
I understand completely why Moyes withdrew him from the starting line-up, but freezing him out completely since (with the exception of the West Brom cup tie, I believe) was counter-productive to his development and that of the team.
To then throw him on against United with the team losing and barely able to create a chance was not the time to reintroduce him, in my opinion. Giving him regular substitute outings in previous games would have kept him ticking over and gradually brought his game back to where it was in the first couple of games of the season.
Of course the tragic reality is, that he can be fast tracked to stardom simply by telling Everton what to do with their contract... heartbreaking
I'd wager he'll do that if he's not even in the squad week after week.
13 Posted 30/10/2011 at 17:22:30
I think that Moyes is trying to protect Barkley from the sheer weight of expectation that began growing after the early season glimpses. Maybe the Rodwell situation and the Rooney situation before that has taught Moyesie a thing or two about handling prodigious young talent. I too would like to see more of the lad, but trust that Moyes will handle him correctly.
On an aside it was good to see the Heitinga / Jags partnership at long last and they seemed to get better as the game wore on. Johnny begins so many moves from the back by distributing it intelligently and whilst Distin has been AWESOME for us, he is getting on a bit and surely Jags / Johnny is the way to go. Interesting to see whether they play together again against Newcastle, who will pose a bigger physical threat up top with Ba and Best.
14 Posted 30/10/2011 at 18:51:53
There may be something to that, David. My fear is that the Rooney situation developed out of either the player or his representatives telling him that he *should* be playing every week while Moyes was trying to bring him in slowly.
Again, I'm not advocating him starting every week, I just took umbrage to Moyes calling out his mistakes in public and then keeping him out of the squad altogether.
15 Posted 30/10/2011 at 22:43:25
16 Posted 02/11/2011 at 13:12:45
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