Manchester Utd 3 - 1 Everton

Following Tuesday evening’s disaster against Brighton & Hove Albion, the thought of visiting Old Trafford filled me, and I dare so most of the other 9,400 Evertonians that travelled, with dread.

Though as always happens, as the clock ticked towards the finish of my working day, I found myself pretty excited for the trip to Old Trafford.

Gaz picked me up first, before grabbing Dan and Alfie, and despite rush hour, the trip up the M56 was pretty plain sailing. We parked up near The Quadrant pub and grabbed a few beers in there, also meeting up with a few good friends of mine, both Manchester United fans. Both a lot more optimistic than we were no doubt.

Unsurprisingly, Frank Lampard reverted back to the system that worked against Manchester City. Ben Godfrey was reinstated into the back three, Seamus Coleman replaced the injured Nathan Patterson, Amadou Onana returned from suspension in place of Tom Davies and Neal Maupay was given an opportunity up front in place of the fatigued Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

In the build-up to kick-off, the Evertonians were raucous, with Spirit of the Blues getting plenty of renditions. We attacked towards the far end in the first half with our fans in good voice, though we were soon silenced as early as 4 minutes in when Antony slid in at the far post. The goal seemed to come out of nothing. Looking back at it in the highlights, I have to wonder quite what Vitalii Mykolenko was doing, as he inexplicably drifted so far away from Antony.

Manchester United got a bit of a grip of the game at this point as Everton struggled to get out, though we withstood the pressure, and levelled via a very fortuitous goal from Conor Coady. In fairness, Demarai Gray had very nearly scored prior to that with a rasping drive from distance as Everton began to exert some pressure, and it paid off I suppose.

Neal Maupay did well to create nuisance value and force something towards goal. What David De Gea was doing, I don’t know, and fortunately Conor Coady was there to bundle home from close range into pretty much an empty net. Everton very fortunate… but we’ll take it.

As we edged towards half-time, the clock seemed to get slower and slower. I remember looking at it with 40 minutes gone, and it felt as though about 10 minutes had passed when I looked up again to see there were only 42 minutes gone. When we finally got to the break, Dan pounced upon an unusually quiet queue for drinks and we grabbed a beer each.

This meant missing a minute or so at the beginning of the second half, and it felt like no sooner had we got to our seats that we saw Alex Iwobi darting forward in possession and HE was well tackled by Tyrell Malacia. Sadly for Alex, his fall was such that he was rolling around in agony to the point where had to be stretchered off in tears. We feared the worst though were relieved to later hear that it is ligament damage and not a break. 

Poor Frank though must be wondering when he’ll catch a break. Losing Nathan Patterson and now Alex Iwobi to ligament injuries within a few days of each other is quite the kicker… and more bad luck was to follow quicksmart…

Only 1 minute after Alex was finally substituted (why did it take so long to get Abdoulaye Doucoure ready and onto the pitch?), Conor Coady managed to divert a Marcus Rashford centre into his own net. It was as ridiculous as it was unlucky, and Everton found themselves behind.

It was a splendid effort from the lads in their attempts to salvage our FA Cup campaign and, but for a tight offside call, we might have done it. We certainly thought we had. In our heads, we understood that there was no VAR for this game so felt completely justified in celebrating as wildly as we did, and were therefore gutted when Dominic’s goal was ruled out for offside.

Credit to the lads from there forth as they kept on going. This naturally created a few opportunities for Manchester United as we pushed for the leveller, but we had more chances of our own too, with probably Demarai Gray coming the closest to scoring.

It was a valiant effort, though Manchester United had the final say when Alejandro Garnacho went down easily as he tried to get around Ben Godfrey. I don’t think that was a penalty, or certainly not one that needed to be given. It was the end of the game anyway and was hardly clear-cut. The referee easily could have let Jordan gather the ball and call full-time, but no, he had to be pedantic, which was no surprise to me given his performance throughout. 

When referees go to Old Trafford, against Everton at least, as I can’t base it on much else, it always feels they can’t help themselves but stick up for their beloved Red Devils, and everything goes in their favour. Even the yellow card consistency for us and them is way out. It’s a bit of a disgrace as they don’t need this help. We trudged off once the penalty was scored. Disappointed, but philosophical, and proud of our team.

Off the pitch, there was some fellas both in front and behind me who seemed hell-bent on not enjoying the game. Everything and anything that happened was met by a stream of obscenities, with even Alex Iwobi getting a load of grief for having the audacity to get injured.

This created something of an echo chamber around us with both parties seemingly egging each other on more and more with their complaints. It was like a pool of hate. And I learnt a life hack that it's really not worth your while suggesting to these guys that they give it a rest and try getting behind the team. This only makes it worse.

So, it goes without saying what a big week it is for Frank. He goes into next Saturday’s home match against Southampton under huge pressure and must know that anything but a win will likely get him sacked. With the sit-in protests planned, defeat could get very, very ugly next Saturday at Goodison Park. I’d like to think we can count on the players to repeat their efforts from last night, but following the Brighton & Hove Albion match, how can we possibly be sure?

For my money, right now I don’t really see the point in sacking Frank. I’ve had enough of managerial changes, and I don’t want to be back in this same position next season, when we’re wondering if we should or shouldn’t sack our next manager.

I’d much sooner he was backed with a couple of new players this week to give us our best chance in some big upcoming games. Obviously there is a breaking point somewhere, but the performance last night should earn him the right for more time in my view. 

Player ratings:

Jordan Pickford: He was helpless with all three goals but dealt with all else pretty well. 7

Vitalii Mykolenko: He’s come in for a bit of flak lately though I don’t think it's wholly undeserved. He doesn’t seem to be improving in an attacking sense, but the caveat to that has been so far that he’s a solid defender. Though this has come under question these last three games with some sort of culpability for goals in all of the last three matches. I worry about his credentials as a wing-back should this be the system we are going with, and it maddens me even more that we have an out-of-the-box Premier League experience Portuguese left wing-back sitting on the bench every week with seemingly no prospect of play. Madness. 5

Ben Godfrey: He did okay if not spectacular. He lost possession a few times trying to bring the ball out from the back. 6

James Tarkowski: Decent, kept us solid. 6

Conor Coady: Scored a goal and an own-goal. Was otherwise okay. 6

Seamus Coleman: He had his work cut out up against Marcus Rashford but stuck to his task well and carried the fight to Manchester United. While you don’t want to wish injury upon anyone of course, having Seamus in the team ahead of Nathan may not be the worst thing as we’re better for having Seamus’s character and leadership in there, and Nathan has been somewhat out of sorts since his return from injury. 7

Amadou Onana: Seemed to play as a No 6 and was brilliant throughout. He covered a lot of ground, made a lot of tackles, and was instrumental throughout. A great effort, probably his best yet for Everton. My Man of the Match. 8

Alex Iwobi: Wasn’t exactly having his best game before injury struck but was involved. His injury is a big blow. It represents a good opportunity for Abdoulaye Doucouré to come in, but I’d like to think that, in Alex’s absence, the club realise the requirement to bring a bit of creativity into that midfield. 6

Idrissa Gueye: Also did okay and kept on going. 6

Demarai Gray: As has been the way recently, Demarai kept on going and is potentially the first name on the teamsheet right now. He’s working ever so hard and making things happen, and was very unfortunate not to register an assist to add to his impressive recent form. Well done, Demarai. 7

Neal Maupay: I think he’s done pretty well in all of the last three games. He had a shocker against Wolverhampton Wanderers, though then did a handy job of causing a nuisance and winning some free kicks versus Manchester City late in the game. And then against his former club, I thought he did okay in his cameo and at least showed plenty of snarl and fought for his team, be that verbally or physically. And it was the same last night. He had a big hand in our lucky goal, kept on going and generally kept possession pretty well, while taking no guff from the referee or the opposition. Maybe we’ve found a player there after all. 6

Abdoulaye Doucoure (for Iwobi): It was nice to see Abdoulaye performing at a level again that we know he is capable of. With Alex now out for a while, it’s an opportunity for Abdoulaye to come in and perform. If he can do what we know he can, he might be a vital cog in this team yet. 7

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (for Maupay): He was up for this and looked back at his best in his time on the field. He can make a huge difference if fit, everything crossed he gets there. Unlucky not to grab us an equalizer. 7

Dwight McNeil (for Mykolenko): Brought on to play as wingback and bring us up the pitch more. He got involved and did okay. 6

Anthony Gordon (for Seamus Coleman): Same as previous. 6

Reader Comments (5)

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Derek Thomas
1 Posted 07/01/2023 at 21:36:43
Thanks again for the on-the-spot report, but a gallant if albeit unlucky loss is still a loss... and the losses are mounting up.

If we'd held out at 2-2 a Tuesday night replay (do they even have those now or has Klopp put a stop to them as well?) under the lights might have been an occasion to savour.

Lampard's record (not that I've actually checked) now seems worse than Benitez's – but the fact we 'like Frank' and didn't like the late and unlamented Squire of Caldy (what the fuck was Moshiri thinking???) seems to be the only thing keeping him in a job...

That and the fact that there isn't a decent candidate... (Bielsa was my pick before Ancelotti, now it's Postecoglou.)

And if there was one, he wouldn't touch it with a barge pole, and there's probably no money for players either.

Let's just ride it out and if it ends up in the Championship or safety, look at it in June – again!

Phillip Warrington
2 Posted 08/01/2023 at 04:14:10
I just saw on the BBC Sport website our recruiting has gone up another notch...

Crystal Palace are ready to rival Everton in an attempt to sign former England striker Danny Ings, 30, from Aston Villa. (Sun).

Yep another bench warmer we will be stuck with for the next 3 years.

Danny O’Neill
3 Posted 08/01/2023 at 09:03:42
Very good assessment, Paul.

You captured the sentiment of the crowd as I saw it. I stayed behind to watch the players come over and they got a good reception, which always tells you something.

When I eventually left the stadium, I went completely the wrong way before being assisted by some helpful United fans to get me on my way back to Piccadilly.

Seamus done really well considering he was up against an in-form Rashford. On Mykolenko, a few have suggested he might be better on the left of a back 3. I'd personally like to see that tried out.

I think most of the masses left the ground disappointed with the result, but satisfied with the performance.

I can only say it as I saw it, but take the penalty out of it, which, as you say was soft and arguably unnecessarily awarded, plus the very tight offside decision that sent us into temporary delirium, it was a very closely fought match and there wasn't much in it.

Although the space and gaps we afford teams continue to concern me. A better team than United or an in-form United could have exploited that to much more effect.

Take the same spirit to Goodison and put Southampton to the sword.

Martin Mason
4 Posted 08/01/2023 at 11:55:26
Good report, Paul.

I'm a bit more positive this morning, my views on how we did on Friday had been far more negative than many reports that I've read since.

We have half a season now to turn things around and I think that we can do it. I think that to sack Frank Lampard now would be absolute insanity. We're in this together and the echo chamber is the problem, not the solution.

We supporters have to carry the team with us regardless of the board.

Andy McNabb
5 Posted 08/01/2023 at 22:04:56
Thanks Paul. Really appreciate your well balanced musings. It is the closest I get to attending.

Watched the extended highlights, which don’t always give the most balanced impression but at least we were carrying the ball forward and the beautifully worked disallowed goal would have stood before VAR existed. I read the other day that if you replace your morning coffee with green tea, you can lose up to 87% of what little joy you still have left in your life. I feel VAR has had a similar effect on the game.

My brother and sis in law have travelled over here for Christmas and New Year. He’s a red and keeps moaning about how they ‘could’ have lost to Villa/Leicester/Wolves and yet they didn’t. They seem to regularly get crazy decisions such as the two bonkers offsides at each end against Wolves, whilst we are reduced to being encouraged by a 3-1 loss.

Despite our differing allegiances to both sides of Stanley Park, my family has always managed to remain civil with each other. He looks at the highlights with me and rather than expressing any degree of schadenfreude, he simply shakes his head and asks - “Have you lot got some curse hanging over you?” Hard to disagree with him.

What I do agree with, is Martin’s comment. Sacking Lampard would achieve nothing and plunge us once again into the abyss of uncertainty. Mind you, since Moyes left, we should have got used to that. Frank lacks some nous and possibility that degree of ruthlessness apparent in all good managers but surely we we have to stick and stop twisting at some point.

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