Manchester United 1 - 0 Everton
A trip down the East Lancs to Old Trafford always has us wondering if this is the game where we show we can match them and come away with a win. We hope we have left our knives behind and gone with the correct armoury to contest a gun fight. The pre- game chat centred on the Lukaku interviews in Belgium and rather than berate the lad for disrespecting our club most thought he was probably ill advised to do it when he did but quite understandable considering the progress of the club since he joined on loan.
It was a good debate and before I knew it we had lost not only Lukaku but Stones, Barkley and Deulofeu as well as the fans assembled were in no doubt our present manager would only continue the backward trend. Although this view is gaining momentum today the Blue Army was not letting it show as it sung and chanted and had a good rehearsal of Wembley songs as support for the players was on show.
We had a big fanfare to laud Sir Bobby Charlton who had a stand named in his honour. His achievements in 60 years of being involved with the club were read out and warmly received.
We won the toss and changed ends and Man Utd kicked off. After just 10 mins I asked my mate if he had any idea who was playing where? We had eleven on the field and only the keeper and our two centre-backs looked have a position. Players were popping up all over the place in what was either a masterful tactical ploy or no one knew exactly what to do except run about a lot and at pace. Man Utd were looking no better and the game settled into a series of attacks from both teams that bothered defences very little.
Early on Barkley got on the ball and moved forward but instead of shooting he spread the ball wide to Deulofeu who came inside at pace beating two men but then ran into a further four and that chance was gone. Then Barkley disappeared from the game for a while. Stones was faring better than most as he seems to have had a few lessons in defending that carries minimum risk. In one piece of play he beat his man with a neat turn and strode out of defence with the ball, looked up, and delivered a peach of a pass but alas to a Red shirt. United then came close when the speedy Martial cut in from the right and his shot just missed the far post. 20 minutes gone and although the game was dull you could at least say it was even.
We gained a free kick in a good position for a Baines who swung it in but hit a defender and we got a corner. Baines took to the back post where Lukaku was lurking, he headed it back across goal, beat everyone so goal kick to Utd who went down the other end and gained a corner. The ball came into the box and from the melee Stones strode out and fed a fine ball to Lennon now popping up on the left and he fed Lukaku, his first touch was not of the required standard and he lost the ball and Utd had another spell at attacking our goal but with Jags and Stones solid we sort of scrambled the ball clear but with no one up it kept coming back into our box until thankfully one of their players headed hopelessly wide. For the last ten minutes of the half Utd were well on top but we kept them out with some great blocks from Jags and one superb sliding tackle from Stones and consequent clearance kept us level until the whistle.
Half-time: 0-0. It was quite an even half but our team looked as though it had been put together for a testimonial game. Some decent individual stuff but where oh where was the teamwork.
Second half and Man Utd made a sub we were as we started and we started as we had finished the first half so I wasnâ€™t filled with too much hope yet the start of this half was when I thought we played our best stuff of the match. A little bit of joined up stuff crept in after we had realised that booting the ball directly at the lonesome unsupported Lukaku was only ever going to surrender possession. Baines linked with Jags and sent a grass cutter into the feet of Lukaku in the box, in one movement he turned and shot but alas the ball was diverted for a corner by the desperate lunge of his marker. Close that was.
Then after the corner was cleared Coleman at last found a decent pass and fed Deulofeu and he was off like a rat up a drainpipe only to be wrestled down By Blind who got no more than a telling off. It was a good squeal from Geri though. From the free kick Baines got a corner which he took and got another one that he swung in well that was poorly dealt with but Coleman following up hit a hard shot but it never had a chance of getting through all the bodies in the box. We did have a loud handball shout though as the ball seemed to hit a defenders arm, the Ref who was Mr Marriner, contemptuously waved the protestations away.
The game meandered on and became quite open as both teams had good reason to get a result albeit for differing reasons. The Utd manager made tweaks to his teams approach by the introduction of subs yet our man was unmoving on that front. This paid off for them after the 50min mark when the move of the day saw a long diagonal ball of some 60 yards found a Utd man who controlled it first time with aplomb fed it inside to a player who back heeled it into the path of his team mate who crossed across goal and at the far post Coleman seemed to completely miss the ball leaving Martial the simple task of hitting off the sprawling Robles and into the net. Somehow we just knew that it was going to be yet another loss for us. This thought was compounded just minutes later when Deulofeu put in a great corner that our captain showed grit and fight in losing his man and firing in a superb header that beat the keeper all ends up but not the crossbar. Wouldnâ€™t you just know it?
I wondered about a sub for us as we reached the hour mark as we may as well go two up top or even three and go for it as we looked toothless as it was. At that moment Mirallas was sent on but alas it was like for like as Deulofeu went off.
Barkley was just flitting in and out of the game and each time I noticed him he always seemed to be about 5yds either side of the halfway line and rarely running at their back line. Surely he should be up behind Rom as the Belgian was on starvation rations and we are 1-0 down plus the fact Utd were looking no better than us.
Mirallas was bringing a bit of help with some sharp play but it was always breaking down in their box through a myriad of reasons that most could be traced back to poor first control of the ball. One of these Mirallas inspired moves at last saw Barkley surge to the left of the penalty area but his well hit cross merely cleared everyone and went for a throw in on the opposite flank.
The game petered out with both sides having spells of attacking and both sides were guilty of failing to even look like capitalising on some reasonable approach work. To be fair you could highlight nearly moments like if Lukaku had been more aware of a Coleman cross, If Jags could have got more power and height from a corner kick, if Lukaku and Cleverly could have got shots off after bursting through but it was all IF. We were though trying to stage a grandstand finish with play fashioned by the players on the park.
I would have liked to see the manager show some understanding of our position and try something, anything that just might have aided the playerâ€™s mind-set and confidence but he just seemed to stand there and let them get on with it without his help. We sometimes laugh at the antics of certain managers but at least the players know they care as much as them. Do you know I think he made it worse when he sent on Niasse for Barkley at the death only for our Â£13.5 million pound man merely impersonate a footballer. That may be a bit harsh but it was how I was feeling when I jotted it down.The whistle went and yet again we come off the ground feeling low after yet another loss.
MotM: Jagielka or Stones for me
Overall it was an unspectacular game that I am sure I was not alone in thinking that with a bit more of a joined up team effort we could have got the points with a bit to spare. We have the players to do it as we have witnessed it on a few occasions but never with a consistency that should get the rewards. Game after game we wonder which Everton will turn up. Game after game we seem semi prepared for a loss. And we all end up where we started Game after game we ask what the manager is doing about it.
The manager has stated we can shop at Harrods now but the real question for the board is. -. Whichever players he gets can he make a joined up team out of them as so far you have to say this is not happening with what he has now.
It is easy for us fans to say he must go but with the words coming out of Goodison it seems he is here for a while yet but surely the decline over three seasons cannot be just brushed under the carpet especially when some of his players now seem to have itchy feet. Three seasons seems a reasonable length of time to see progress or not and at least convene a board meeting to look into our prospects by leaving things as they are or indeed looking for a clear out and head hunt someone who can meet the ambition of our new board and take advantage of player investment.
With the chance of a cup final in the offing it is sad to be talking like this but cup win or not if we stay as we are then any players we get that show real progression will be cherry picked so that they can fulfil their ambitions and we will forever be playing catch up from a middle of the table position being billed as the best nursery in the Premier League.
Still maybe a miracle is on the horizon and we will be FA Cup holders and back in Europe with a joined up consistent team. Hereâ€™s hoping.
UP THE BLUES