When you’re arguably the biggest club in world football, you shouldn’t need a hand up from the match officials. And yet, time and time again, Manchester United and the other so-called elite clubs of Premier League football benefit from infuriatingly favourable decisions.
You can argue that “these things even themselves out over the course of a season” and, perhaps, by the end of the campaign, we Evertonians might look back and say that, overall, we got the rub of the green but it won’t have come in games against the “big six”. When you look at the fact that the penalty awarded to the Blues this afternoon was the first at Old Trafford since 1962 and that Everton have only been awarded two penalties at Anfield in the last 80 years, a it starts to build a picture of the psychology that governs referees’ decisions in these cauldrons.
Of course, there’s the mental aspect of refereeing in front of 70-odd thousand baying Mancunians and having to suffer the verbal wrath of the cantankerous Portuguese in the Red Devils’ dugout and then there’s general incompetence. And when it comes to Jon Moss, both could be said to be at play to a large degree.
Moss has screwed Everton over already this season — he was in charge for what will surely be the most glaringly egregious offside decision of the season, one that allowed Arsenal to seal the game at the Emirates last month — so there was collective dismay when the West Yorkshire-based official was assigned to this match. Some among us foresaw controversy, but it wouldn’t have taken Mystic Meg. The man is a slow-jogging disaster; a figure who courts vilification from Premier League supporters up and down the land.
So it was, then, that what was shown to be a perfectly legal tackle by Idrissa Gueye on Anthony Martial, followed by unconscionable theatrics by the Frenchman worthy of vintage Jurgen Klinsmann or Luis Suarez, was deemed to be a penalty 26 minutes into what had hitherto been a fairly evenly-balanced contest.
Both teams had tested the respective goalkeepers, André Gomes and Juan Mata with a headers at either end and Martial with a piledriver that Jordan Pickford parried away, but the award of the spot-kick unquestionably tipped the match in the home team’s direction.
Gueye challenged Martial in the Blues’ box, getting a toe on the ball, but his out-stretched thigh was an invitation for the United forward to hurl himself forward, adding the infamous spread-leg flourish to complete the con job on the officials.
Paul Pogba didn’t fool Pickford with his leisurely, stutter-step run-up for the resulting penalty but though the keeper saved the kick with a raised palm, he could only push it straight back to the Frenchman who tucked home the rebound.
The effect of the goal was fairly predictable. United, attempting to rebound from their midweek defeat to Juventus, gained in confidence for the remainder of a first half that was short on genuine chances.
And yet, this wasn’t a story solely about a poor refereeing decision; in the spirit of their exacting young manager, Everton refused to lie down and they would have their chances — three very good ones — but poor decision-making and poor finishing would undermine them in United’s third of the field.
A terrific passing move ended with Seamus Coleman crossing for Gylfi Sigurdsson but his header from 12 yards was straight at David de Gea. Then, Sigurdsson played Theo Walcott in but though the winger cut inside well, his shot was weak. And Walcott would spurn the best the first-half openings when he latched onto a sublime pass from Michael Keane but, not for the first time this season, went for glory rather than cutting it back and his shot from the angle was beaten behind by De Gea.
The Spanish keeper would be put through his paces again straight after the interval when Richarlison, deployed as the central striker for the third game running, jinked through and fired a low shot that De Gea got down low to save.
Unfortunately, any momentum Everton were trying to build early in the second half was halted by Manchester United’s second and another facet of this defeat: slack defending on the Toffees’ right-hand side.
Walcott had been slow to track back as United built an attack down their right, Kurt Zouma blocked an Ashley Young cross but only as far as Pogba who found Martial in plenty of space behind Coleman at the corner of the area. In a moment depressingly reminiscent of Alexandre Lacazette’s opener for Arsenal against Everton at the Emirates, Martial used the latitude afforded him to bend a shot around Pickford and inside the far post to make it 2-0. Coleman’s reaction, a very visible rebuke of Walcott, was telling; the skipper had been let down by the winger.
It should have been 2-1 and game very much on with plenty of time to go straight after the restart, however. Sigurdsson and Richarlison combined well just inside the opposition half before the Brazilian split the United defence with a perfectly-weighted pass for his compatriot Bernard. The diminutive winger rounded De Gea expertly enough but failed to squeeze his shot between the near post and Victor Lindelof on the goal line.
Having escaped at that end, the home side had two chances to increase their lead but found Pickford in imperious form. First he foiled Marcus Rashford in a one-on-one situation and then he got a quick, strong hand down low to stop a low Pogba effort from the angle.
Everton, meanwhile, blew another chance to get on the scoresheet in the 72nd minute after Ademola Lookman had come on for Bernard. Another brilliant pass from Richarlison sprung Coleman on the overlap but with the goal at his mercy, he got too much underneath his shot and it flew over when he had to hit the target.
The visitors did make it 2-1 four minutes later when Pogba’s error was seized upon by Lookman, Sigurdsson fed Richarlison and the forward was sent crashing to the turf by Chris Smalling. Referee Moss pointed to the spot, elected not to book the defender for a second bookable offence, and Sigurdsson stepped up to sweep a well-taken spot kick high to De Gea’s left.
That set the stage for a potentially dramatic last quarter of an hour as Everton pushed United back in search of an equaliser. Again, however, they were let down by poor decision-making in important areas, together with a general carelessness with possession as they chased the game.
Ultimately, the Blues’ finale lacked guile and it was United who almost capitalised as their opponents pressed forward, Romelu Lukaku wasting a chance to prove Mourinho was wrong for dropping him by planting a free header well wide and Pickford pulling off another world class save to foil Martial on another breakaway in the closing stages.
Despite the defeat, there were plenty of positives to be drawn from Everton’s performance, ones that continue to bode well for the future that Marco Silva is patiently trying to build. Past Blues sides — last season’s would be an obvious example — might have folded and succumbed to a heavy defeat but the Blues remained unbowed, leading to the pleasing sight of an edgy United withdrawing into a red wall on the edge of the box in the final few minutes desperately trying to hold out.
While the formation that was so successful at Leicester didn’t quite work the same way on this occasion and Bernard was a more peripheral figure, Everton still, had some good moments, particularly involving Richarlison in the second half. And, while you still get the feeling he is playing within himself as he feels his way into the English game, André Gomes was, again, cut an impressive figure of assuredness in the middle of the park.
The concern is Everton’s right flank where Coleman continues to struggle through an alarmingly poor spell of form. His crossing, that one chance for Sigurdsson in the first half aside, has become ineffectual, he is going to pieces in the box when chances arrive and defensively he is hit and miss at times.
Walcott, meanwhile, was at fault for poor control in United’s half that led to the opening goal, he neglected his covering duties for the second and his choices in the final third are becoming consistently questionable, with too many of his runs taking him into trouble and him electing to shoot when better options are on around him. In reality, it was probably he who should have made way midway through the second half and not Bernard.
There were already murmurings that Lookman looks increasingly worthy of a shot in the side and Walcott’s position is looking more vulnerable than most. For a player of his vast experience and talent, you expect more than he is providing at the moment.
So, ultimately, it was another dispiriting loss at Old Trafford but with enough to keep alive the hope and belief that Everton are moving in the right direction under Silva. On another day with a better referee, they might have taken a point that few would have begrudged them but the focus must return now to picking up important wins at home to reestablish momentum.
Everton produce an ultimately disappointing display by failing to beat a very beatable Manchester United side on their turf.
Everton were unchanged from their starting line-up against Crystal Palace, with Mina on the bench remaining unused; Lukaku came off the bench for the hosts but failed to break his long dry spell.
It was a lively end-to-end start, the first real shot from Pogba screwed off to the left and out for a throw-in! A great piece of football by Bernard set it up to the far post, Richarlison easily going down, but never a penalty. Nothing from the corner, except a quick red break down the right and then a corner for them, headed away by Digne. A great cross in that Bernard almost connected with — a fantastic game hardly 5 mins old.
Everton had resited the lively Man Utd start and were beginning to build nicely. But an easy turnover was played back to Pickford rather than forward. This gave the initiative back to Man Utd but Walcott got to break only to overrun the chance after a good exchange with Richarlison.
Better movement down the right saw Walcott win a corner that picked out Gomes but his powerful header was straight at De Gea. Everton were doing a better job of controling the midfield, moving the ball well, winning a foul off Fred, but Coleman's poor forward ball was too hopeful.
Zouma gave up a rash challenge but Everton defended the set-piece, Martial crossing well but Mata's downward header was well anticipated by Pickford. Smalling was called by Jon Moss for a poor foul from behind on Richarlison. Some brilliant stuff from Bernard should have seen a better cross from Walcott but it led to a Man Utd break and a blatant shirt-pull by Gueye, who saw an early yellow card as a result. From the free-kick, a fierce shot from Martial was parried away by Pickford. What a high-tempo game!
Walcott messed up a great ball from Richarlison and another rapid break saw a good challenge by Gueye backtracking, inside the area, he gets the ball and Martial does a brilliant dive to win the penalty that never should have been awarded. Pickford saved it, again with his foot, but Pogba tappeed in the rebound.
A great gift for Man Utd, and Martial danced through in the next attack, everyone backing off now, Pogbba forcing another parried save from Pickford that was turned in by Rashford but he was ruled offside.
A forward move finally but Walcott's cross was a foot or three too far ahead and harmlessly went behind. Man Utd attacked fluidly again down the Everton right the ball across out for a corner and Everton under a lot of pressure, unable to break free, Moss turning down handball claims on the next attack.
Young, with one of those lunging challenges on Digne, was waved away by Moss as he got the ball despite taking out the Everton man.
Everton were now being torn apart, shooting practise for the Red Devils. Something needed to change as Richarlison was having minimal effect up front. Everton put together a better move, Coleman swinging in a fine cross for Sigurdsson who picked out De Gea with consummate skill and no lack of power, heading the ball straight at him.
Guyue gave the ball straight to Fred in midfield and was lucky to regain it. Everton tried to push down the left but, instead of going forward, worked it back to Pickford who launched the ball out of play.
A great ball from Sigurdsson to Walcott did not get the end-product it deserved, the ex-Arsenal man passing it feebly to De Gea. Keane fed Walcott the next chance, which he hit harder but again, straight at De Gea, rather than across goal to waiting teammates.
A hugely disappointing first half given what Everton could have done with more confidence, drive, and conviction. But the early card to Gueye and the false penalty called against him meant he was walking a tightrope with Jon Moss. A proactive change for Davies advisable?
Everton resumed the game with no changes, Richarlison getting a good sight of goal from a forward ball by Gana, forcing a sprawling save from De Gea. Pogba tried to dribble his way through four defenders with Walcott dawdling and saw the ball gathered by Pickford but it was quickly recycled back to the Everton area and Martial curled a fantastic shot beyond Pickford and just inside the far post to effectively win the game with the second half barely 4 minutes old.
A brilliant move from Everton, Sigurdsson winning it, Richarlison playing a beautiful pass to Bernard running through, and around De Gea, but he'd pushed the ball a little too far and drillied his shot into the side netting when it seemed easier to score. Any good work laid waste by that finish.
Richarlison tried to run through with the ball but the three-man cul-de-sac defeated him. At the other end, Rashford got behind the Everton defence off an Everton giveaway on the half-way line, Pickford saving brilliantly with his foot. /p>
Digne put in a fine cross but no-one attacked it, while Silva still dithered over any subs, presumably waiting for the 3rd goal before he acted. Pogba almost scored it, but for an excellent low save by the post from Pickford — Everton were in danger of getting overrun as they continued to spurn the chances they were creating.
The obligatory hour-mark finally saw a decision from Silva, Lookman coming on for Bernard, which seems strange. Gueye stupidly kicked the ball out with Pogba wanting treatment — this is why Everton won't win games like this. So much needless respect rather than going for the jugular.
Some competitive play saw Coleman win a free-kick, swung in by Sigurdsson, but Moss already blowing for something no-one else could see, Rashford making way for the goalshy Lukaku, almost 13 hours without a goal.
Another promising move was started and finished by Gomes, who could not get enough purchase on the final header from Coleman's cross. More fluid passing from Man Utd won a corner, headed away by Richarlison.
Another fine move from Everton set up Coleman who scooped it over the bar with a little touch from De Gea not seen apparently by Jon Moss: goalkick. With nothing going Everton's way, the mood of the game for Blues was dismal at best. Silva finally deciding to use his two remaining subs as more pressure from Man Utd was resited.
Richarlison was having a mare but Smalling took him down in the area: penalty — taken emphatically by Sigurdsson, lashed into the top corner. Smalling had injured himself, and went off for treatment as Walcott and Geuye were withdrawn for Calvert-Lewin and Tosun.
A very clever flick by Calvert-Lewin got the ball forward but the attack broke down yet again. Some scrappy stuff saw a sequence of midfield turnovers with time ticking away, Lookman doing well but then giving the ball away, then winning it back.
Digne got down the byeline but his cross was easy for De Gea. At the other end, Pogba's shot was deflected to Pickford. Fred went down with cramp, successfully taking any sting out of Everton's late rally. Into added time, 6 minutes added, giving Everton a little bit of a boost. But surely too late still?
Gomes did well but his deep cross was too close to De Gea. Richarlison was fouled yet again. Everton slow on the build-up, Lookman involved a lot but then giving the ball away. Everton started farting around with the ball and Martial broke one-on-one with Pickford whose brilliant save denied the Man Utd man.
Everton were huffing and puffing, an equalizing goal so near and yet so far. A late corner, 96 mins on the clock, Pickford forward, a dreadful delivery form Digne, and Lookman lashing the clearance wildly over, summing up a massively disappointing result that showed Everton still have long long way to go before that can shove it to the likes of the blessed and feted so-called big six.
Scorers: Pogba (28'), Martial (49'); Sigurdsson (pen:77')
Manchester United: De Gea, Young, Smalling [Y:20'], Lindelof, Shaw, Fred, Matic [Y:43'], Pogba, Mata (85' Ander Herrera), Rashford (65' Lukaku), Martial.
Subs: Romero, Sanchez, (90+4' Lingard), Rojo, Darmian.
Everton: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Zouma, Digne, Gomes, Gueye [Y:21] (78' Tosun), Walcott (78' Calvert-Lewin), Sigurdsson, Bernard (62' Lookman), Richarlison.
Subs not Used: Stekelenburg, Baines, Mina Davies.
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Everton take their three-game winning streak along the East Lancs Road this weekend hoping to beat Manchester United on their turf for just the third time in the Premier League era.
It's almost five years since Roberto Martinez led a rejuvenated Blues side out at Old Trafford and buried a 21-year hoodoo thanks to Bryan Oviedo's dramatic late goal and another Iberian manager will be hoping to repeat the feat in his first season in charge.
Marco Silva faces his compatriot, Jose Mourinho, at a time when the Red Devils are side still answering their critics despite two impressive performances in the Premier League that eased the pressure on the mercurial Portuguese's shoulders prior to the defeat to Juventus in midweek.
United were out-classed in that Champions League group game but the stirring recovery from 2-0 down to Newcastle in their last domestic home fixture and their agonisingly close call with victory at Stamford Bridge last Saturday suggested that Mourinho was getting his arms around the issue of the discord reportedly plaguing their dressing room.
If nothing else, those two games reaffirmed that despite an iffy start to the Premier League campaign that sees them come into this weekend sitting behind Everton in the table, United remain a very dangerous side when they are firing on all cylinders.
What came before, however, is evidence that they and their demanding fans can be got at and unsettled which, given the Blues' form away from Goodison Park this season, should suit Silva down to the ground. Defensively they can be suspect and their forward line — Romelu Lukaku and all but minus Alexis Sanchez this weekend — while potent, has been hit-and-miss of late.
In many areas of the park, Everton can match Mourinho's team for quality and if they can put in the kind of disruptive, high-energy pressing game they employed at Leicester and combine it with the ingenuity that won that match at the King Power Stadium, then there is every chance that Silva could leave Manchester with a good result.
With no new injury worries and fully fit squad, Silva has the kind of selection headache a manager would prefer. With the form of Michael Keane and Kurt Zouma, there is no clear path into the team for £27m man Yerry Mina, a high-profile summer signing who is now having to wait patiently to make his Blues debut now that he has recovered from a foot injury.
Silva suggested during his pre-match press conference that price tag and reputation will have no bearing on his team selection.
“When I look at my players, the money is not important… what the club spent on a player last summer or what they spent two or three years ago, because that's not how I take my decisions,” Silva said.
“I'm happy because Mina is working hard and very well. He is involved in our squad every day. He is understanding what our model is and he is working lke the others towards what he wants which is to be in our starting XI.
“The other two are playing very well so it's a matter of what my decision is. What is very good for me as a coach is seeing Mina working like he is working now, fighting every day and enjoying the club. And when the chance appears to him I want him ready like he is at this moment.“
With André Gomes having made such an assured debut against Palace, central midfield looks likely to be unchanged as well, which just leaves the very open question of who plays up front.
Bernard may have had an off day last Sunday but he was a revelation away at Leicester, laying on the first goal for Richarlison who began the afternoon at centre forward. Neither Brazilian was at their best last time out but it's a formation that accommodates both players in the side and Silva may feel it's his best option in certain circumstances, particularly away from home.
All three of Cenk Tosun, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ademola Lookman will have given their manager something to think hard about, however, with their match-winning contributions off the bench. While Lookman is less likely to start given the threat offered by Theo Walcott's pace on the right, it would not be a surprise to see either of the two strikers in the line-up. At the same time, however, both looked good as substitute options which may affect Silva's thinking.
Whichever option he goes for, it's clear that energy, the high press and the clinical finishing of what chances fall their way is going to be key for the players that are chosen. And if Everton are able to get themselves into a lead, there will be plenty to learn from Newcastle's experience of trying to hold off a concerted charge by the home team to get back into the game.
Certainly, it can only be better than the hiding meted out to Ronald Koeman's outfit in this fixture last season. Let's hope the misfiring Lukaku got his inevitable goal against his old club a year ago and that he will draw a blank this time around!
Again, with United already demonstrated to be psychologically fragile and the Blues improving by the week, there is scope in this one, Jon Moss permitting, for what would be an upset to the neutral observer but to Evertonian eyes mere confirmation of the progress being made by the new regime.
Kick-off: 4pm, Sunday 28 October, 2018
Referee: Jon Moss
Last Time: Manchester United 4 - 0 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Zouma, Digne, Gueye, Gomes, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Walcott, Richarlison