Everton Logo

Everton 1 - 1 Manchester United

Half-time: 0 - 1


Manchester United Logo
FA Carling Premiership 1999-2000 – Game 1
4 pm Sunday 8 August 1999
Goodison Park, Merseyside
Att: 39,141
PSV Eindhoven (h) Ref: Dermot Gallagher Aston Villa (a)
[1999-2000 Fixtures & Results] League Position: 9th [Premiership Results & Table]
 MATCH SUMMARY
Francis Jeffers As if the prospect of facing Manchester United on the opening day of the season, in front of the cynical Sky cameras, was not daunting enough, Walter Smith had to contend with the turmoil created by Francis Jeffers' stunning transfer request, made public just two days before the kick-off.

Smith's team selections verge on the bizarre, and today was no different, with Jeffers nowhere to be seen, and Ball on the bench along with star England U-21 goalie, Steve Simonsen. Age and experience was the theme du jour, with Gerrard in goal, and Richard Gough debuting at the back.

Early defense-splitting work form United boded ill, and Yorke scored on the second lethal strike. But Everton consolidated well, and went on to dominate the rest of the first half. They should have scored early in the second after an excellent shot by Hutchison was parried; follow-ups by Barmby and Campbell were both heroically blocked by United defenders.

Late on in a fairly even match, an off-target header by Barmby was bizarrely headed home by the dazzled Jaap Stam, and Everton were deservedly level. A much better performance against United than in recent years, and all-in-all a promising start to the campaign.

 

 MATCH FACTS
   GOALSCORERS  Debuts
EVERTON: Stam (og:86') Richard Gough
Manchester United: Yorke (7')
   LINEUPS  Subs Not Used 
EVERTON: Gerrard, Ward (Cadamarteri 70), Watson, Gough, Weir, Barmby, Gemmill, Collins, Unsworth, Hutchison (Phelan 85), Campbell.
Unavailable: Myhre, Williamson, Parkinson (injured); Bilic, Branch, Grant, Farrelly, O'Kane (transfer-listed); Jeffers (in dispute).
Ball, Pembridge, Simonsen.
Manchester United: Bosnich, Neville, Berg, Stam, Irwin, Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Cole, Yorke, Solskjaer (Butt 76). Van Der Gouw, Sheringham, Curtis, Cruyff.
   Playing Strips  Formations
EVERTON: Royal Blue shirts; white shorts; blue socks. 4-4-1-1
Manchester United: Red shirts; black shorts; black socks. 4-3-3
   Yellow Cards  Red Cards
EVERTON: Collins (14'), Watson (78'), Gough (90').
Manchester United: Keane (35').

  

 MATCH REPORTS
 REPORTS BY EVERTON FANS
Guy McEvoy Passion and Commitment
Richard Marland Character and Determination
 NEWSPAPER REPORTS
ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH Stam's late slip lifts Everton
by Henry Winter
THE INDEPENDENT United's turn to suffer
by A N Independent
THE TIMES Everton make their point
by Oliver Holt
 OTHER INTERNET REPORTS
EFC NEWS SITE Link to the Echo/Daily Post Match Report

THE GUARDIAN Link to Football Unlimited Match Report
SOCCERNET Link to SoccerNet Match Report
CARLINGNET Link to CarlingNet Match Report

 
 Passion and Commitment
Guy McEvoy
 
When I woke on Sunday morning everything was ideal. I poked my head outside the tent and looked down at the Scottish Lough. Perfection. I seriously toyed for a few seconds not going – I was certain we'd loose, and I could catch the slaughter in the pub in the afternoon. But no matter how crap we are or how certain defeat seems, there is always that glimmer of 'you never know'. So I packed my stuff, left the lads to it, and headed south.

As I eventually hit the M58 the radio very faintly began to pick up 'Radio Everton'. The teams were announced; no Jeffers at all. Not even a space on the bench. A hard task now looked mammoth.

Time was knocking on when I parked up and my cynicism was underlined as I trundled down County Road. Normally the first game of the season fills me with excitement, joining the one-way stream of blue trekking towards the ground should be powerfully evocative. This time I felt nothing but ambivalence. I was going only because my feet were taking me there.

Bought a couple of fanzines on the way in. Pity the poor editor who put a picture of Franny Jeffers under the headline 'Good News' on the front cover. Made my way up to the seat. Pleasantly surprised to see the same familiar faces putting themselves through more of the same for yet another season.

In no time at all Z-cars was on. Finally, a tingle of adrenaline could be felt.

I still for the life of me could not see how a team with Gerrard in the nets; with a back four with Weir, and Unsworth wide of the ageing Watson and Gough; a midfield of Ward, Collins, Gemmill and Barmby, and an attacking duo of Hutch and Cambell could be described as anything kinder than adequate. Whilst describing United's depleted line-up would be still be misleading to use anything less than awesome.

Commitment and Passion can be great equalizers though, and unexpectedly Everton found buckets of the stuff.

It seemed to take an age before we got a touch of the ball. When we did Barmby put his head down and made a good run whipping a long shot well struck but just a fraction over the bar. United were not ruffled; in the space of a couple of minutes they split our central defenders open twice. First Scholes demanded a great stop from Gerrard, then Yorke found himself in a carbon copy situation but this time there was too much momentum on the ball for Gerrard to see it safe. Worst-case start: United with an early lead. Not a rout, please God, not a rout.

The Park End had the usual verbal ding-dong with the United Support. 'Where were you when you where shit?' Came us. "Who the Fuckin' Hell are you?". Came them. I suppose if you're a United fan and deluded that football was only created around 1990 then this is a fair enough question. "If you all hate Scousers clap yer 'ands" came them again. "If you all hate cockney's clap yer 'ands" came us.

The game settled into a pattern and the rout started to look less and less likely. We were tackling like men possessed. Hats off to John Collins and the Don. Also respect to Ward who started to whip in several accurate crosses. The most frustrating of which saw us within a whisker of an equaliser when Don's header hit the post.

United don't like it up them. The battle between Keane and Collins made for the most amusement. It all got a bit silly for a spell with a brief 20 man fracas near the centre circle after another dodgy tackle from the frustrated Irishman.

Other entertainment was provided by the flapping Mark Bosnich who seemed to slice every backpass. The Park End rightly gave him the 'David James Treatment'.

We held on well till half time and the usually pessimistic bloke next to me echoed my own thoughts; if we stick at this we might well snatch something.

We started the second half right where we had left off. Christ, we came close. Hutch swung a shot but Bosnich stretched, Barmby picked up the loose ball and fired it across the narrow angle, this time it was cleared from the line off a retreating defender, it fell to Cambell and again the shot was cleared off the line. How did that stay out?

More tackles, more commitment. Richard Gough take a bow.

United pressed the attack more. But Gerrard was more than equal to all they threw at him. Smith sensed there was still something to grab and risked sticking on Cadamarteri; Ward made way.

Time was knocking on and we pressed forward. Unsworth hurled forward another long cross. Barmby met it with his head, what happened next was obscured by several shirts jumping up at once. All I did see was the ball fly into the back of the net.

A moment like that explains why my feet took me to this game when all rational thought told me not to bother. Goodison roared. The Top Balcony shook. Smiles cracked lips. Stick that up your jammy treble.

The last few minutes where anxious, but the fourth official showed only a minute of extra time to play, and from that sign being held up to the final whistle didn't even seem that long. You can imagine the cheer.

I walked home and like most people the ambivalence had vanished. I still think we badly missed Jeffers but the key to us surviving with this current squad will remain in keeping that level of passion and commitment. One point down, another thirty-nine odd to go.

The Players

  • Gerrard 8 - Great. What we were told to expect when we bought him. Several crucial stops.
  • Weir 6 - the quietest worker on the day.
  • Watson 7 - OK, but the real inspiration came from Gough
  • Gough 8 - Another player teaching the obvious: don't slag a signing till you've seen him do the business for us. This performance was class.
  • Unsworth 7 - Started to get frustrated with his long balls, but in the end one did pay the dividend. Certainly couldn't be accused of hiding in this game.
  • Ward 7 - Surprised me with the quality of his crossing. Put in some great ones, particularly in the first half.
  • Gemmill 7 - Good. He's going to be crucial over the coming season. A playmaker.
  • Collins 8 - Best performance I've seen him put in for us. More please.
  • Barmby 8 - A real asset. Passion and commitment? Just look at how many miles he must have run.
  • Hutchison 7 - A determined performance, though I think he always looked more like another midfielder than the attacker he'd been played as. Unlucky with the one that hit the post.
  • Campbell 7 - Held the ball up very well, won more well-directed flick-on headers than the previous holder of his shirt would have. Only thing that was missing was him looking like he'd score. Missed Jeffers.
  • Cadamarteri 6 - Come on Danny, with Franny playing silly beggars this is your chance to stake a claim. Whatever happened to the dread-locked lad who burst on with all that talent a couple of seasons ago. Keep it simple and the goals will come. Try and do too much every time and you'll look a fool.
  • Phelan 6 - Only one real contribution.

 
 Character and Determination
Richard Marland
 
Walter managed to totally wrong-foot us all with his selection and formation. I anticipated 5-3-2 with Phelan at left back in place of Ball. The only thing I got right was the omission of Ball. We lined up 4-4-2 with Unsworth at left back and the totally unanticipated inclusion of Mitch Ward on the right of midfield. Gerrard was in goal, with a back four of Weir, Watson, Gough and Unsworth, Collins and Gemmill in central midfield with Ward and Barmby on the flanks, and Campbell and Hutchison were up front. The bench comprised Simonsen, Ball, Phelan, Cadamarteri and Pembridge.

The match started very ominously. United took the kick-off and promptly kept the ball for what seemed like an eternity, there must have been about 20 touches before we got any kind of a look in. By the six-minute mark it looked like it could have been curtains. Scholes had already been put through in the third minute only being denied by very good work by Gerrard. On six minutes it was Dwight Yorkes turn, some slick United interplay through the middle saw Yorke being put through and despite Gerrard getting a touch to the ball it ended in the back of our net.

The alarm bells were well and truly ringing. The ease with which they had carved us open, and the control they had exerted on the play were extremely ominous. At this point we could quite easily have folded. That we didn't said a lot about the spirit of the players and the sheer hard work and endeavour we were putting in. All over the pitch we were hard working and organised. Yes United were controlling large periods of the game but for the most part we kept them at arms length and when we did get the ball we used it quite well.

Half time was reached without any further addition to the score. Man Utd had the better chances but we'd had our moments too, 1-0 was about right.

The second half didn't bring any changes in personnel and didn't bring any changes in the pattern of play. They passed the ball well and saw a lot of possession, we continued to work hard to deny them space. They continued to carve out chances but a combination of profligate finishing and continuing good work form Paul Gerrard kept them within touching distance.

For our part we continued to take the play to them when we did get the ball. Frequently we foundered on the rock that was Jaap Stam (he was exceptional), but we did create the best chance of the half. Hutchison recieved a long ball into the box, he did exceptionally well to get in a shot on the turn, Bosnich parried and it fell to Barmby who took it round the scrambling 'keeper only to see his goalbound shot stopped by a desperate defender, the ball then fell to Campbell whose own goalbound shot was deflected away, this time to safety. It had been an amazing let off for United, and as the match wore on it looked like our best chance could have gone in that moment.

Walter started to make sensible substitutions: Cadamarteri came on for Ward, initially in a straight swap, although later again Hutchison and Danny exchanged positions. As the match wore on I started to get the feeling that we were starting to run out of steam a little. United started to force a number of corners and although we defended them well you got the feeling that a second for them was starting to look a little inevitable. With five minutes to go I decided that I would settle with what we had – a one goal reverse against the best team in the land but with the satisfaction of an encouraging performance.

It's a good job the players didn't think like that. Unsworth advanced down the left and launched a long cross beyond the far post, Barmby met the ball with his head and headed it back across goal and Stam, making possibly his first mistake of the match, nodded it on into the far corner past Bosnich. Cue delirium.

There was still a little time left, time enough in fact for a ball to flash across our six yard box, from the St. End it looked like one of those where you don't know quite how it failed to find the back of the net. Fortunately our agony didn't last too long and after a minimum of injury time the referee blew and we could celebrate a point.

Such is the low level of expectation at Goodison this season I don't think any of us expected even a point from today's game. In all honesty it was a game in which we couldn't really have complained if we had been beaten. United's quality was there to see and they certainly created enough chances to have killed us off. But, having said that, we did enough to show that a draw wasn't an absolute steal. In fact our performance gives us a lot of heart for the remainder of the season. This was in all respects a team performance, one in which everyone pulled their weight. Continue in this vein and we will be alright this season. Don't shout it too loud but I reckon we can take quiet encouragement from this performance.

Player Ratings

  • Gerrard 8 At least three very good saves and all round this was an assured, confident display. Joe Royle always said he was a good 'keeper and Joe was generally a pretty good judge.
  • Weir 6. I quite like this guy. He quietly gets on with his job, nothing flashy but he's a decent defender who does his job.
  • Unsworth 6 Someone else who continues to a decent job for us. Kept Beckham fairly quite and defended well.
  • Watson 7 A few dodgy moments but generally handled the United front line very well.
  • Gough 8 On this evidence well worth his salary. Defended impeccably, read the game brilliantly. Forget the age thing – if he continues like this it is totally irrelevant. The guy is a top class defender.
  • Ward 6 At times seemed a little lost and out of it. But did contribute some decent crosses (which is precisely what I reckon he was there for) and got stuck in and worked hard for the team.
  • Barmby 8 His attitude and work rate continue to be an example to all. Was bright and lively all game and worked so hard it was untrue.
  • Gemmill 7 Another good performance from our "Forest reject". Links the play well and rarely gives the ball away.
  • Collins 7 Undoubtedly had lots of good moments but still has a worrying tendency to get caught in possession. You can see that he is trying to do the right thing but sometimes he plays with fire and got us into trouble on a couple of occasions.
  • Hutchison 6 Worked hard but struggled to have an impact either in attack or in midfield when he frequently dropped back.
  • Campbell 7 Fed on scraps but did OK. Gives us a prescence up front and at least gives the opposition something to think about. Fortunately he won't come up against Jaap Stam every week.
  • Cadamarteri 6 Showed his usual eager running, but didn't really produce much.
  • Phelan 5 Came on for the tiring Hutchison for about the last 8 minutes. Barely touched the ball.

Team 8 Showed character and determination to stay in the game. Worked very hard and also, on occasion, played some nice football.

Man of the match - Gerrard and Barmby deserve consideration but ultimately it has to go to Richard Gough who was a tower of strength and could prove to be an inspired signing.


 
 Stam's late slip lifts Everton
Henry Winter, Electronic Telegraph
 
THE champions of England and Europe discovered yesterday that opposing teams are now stirred even further by the sight of the red and black of Manchester United. Everton's breathless passion-players, running themselves into the ground as Goodison screamed itself hoarse, finally secured the point their work-rate deserved when Jaap Stam headed into his own net to cancel out Dwight Yorke's opener.

United had the chances to win but Everton had the character to draw. A game played at breakneck pace, United's first competitive outing since the Treble was achieved proved a tale of two centre-halves, of Stam's unfortunate intervention and a classic display of the stopper's art by Richard Gough, aged 37 but with all the coltish enthusiasm of a 17-year-old.

On his debut, Gough confirmed his reputation as one of those professionals who never gives less than everything. His unwavering effort here set the tone for Everton's performance, so delighting those faithful whose heads were already spinning with news of further takeover talks involving Bill Kenwright.

Gough was magnificent, his contribution making a mockery of those who voted Dwight Yorke man of the match. As United threatened to swamp Walter Smith's team, as Roy Keane and Paul Scholes charged forward in wave after wave, Gough held firm, making tackle after tackle, interception after interception, despite sustaining a facial injury.

When the Scot was booked after one full-bloodied but clean challenge on Andy Cole, Goodison roared its disbelief. In tandem with Dave Watson, another 37-year-old, Gough may prove one of Smith's most inspired recruits. The old ones, it seems, are the best.

"I know Walter Smith well," said Sir Alex Ferguson, United's manager. "I know he can generate the right team spirit, particularly with two warhorses like Gough and Watson. As long as they're fresh, Everton will make it difficult for teams. Everton showed their fighting spirit."

As for rumours linking United to Barcelona's Brazilian, Rivaldo, Ferguson added: "You don't expect me to respond to whispers."

Smith, inevitably, agreed with Ferguson's assessment of his team. "We deserved something for our level of commitment. We showed we can fight our way through 90 minutes against one of the better teams around."

Everton's manager, whose team looked well organised and busy in their 4-4-1-1 formation, was clearly relieved to hear about the renewed takeover talks. "It's not been an easy period for anyone working here," he said.

In a statement, Kenwright said: "I can confirm that over the weekend I've had what I hope are positive discussions with Peter Johnson regarding the acquisition of the majority shareholding in Everton Football Club. These discussions will continue tomorrow and I hope to make an announcement shortly after that." By close of play today, Everton's future could be gaining a rosier hue.

One further pressing issue remains: the Francis Jeffers conundrum. Everton's highly-regarded teenager, who requested a transfer on Friday, was excluded from the matchday 16 and the game of brinkmanship may be drawing to a conclusion. Quick, exciting and already familiar with England training, Jeffers would be a huge loss to Goodison, particularly as Kevin Campbell needs to prove himself over an entire season, not in the series of bursts that have characterised his career.

Campbell never looked like scoring yesterday. Indeed, in the opening minutes he never looked like seeing possession such was United's control. Keane, whose locked contract talks may have precipitated the Rivaldo rumours, released Scholes who drew the first of some good saves by Paul Gerrard.

Everton's keeper appeared more confident than United's. But despite the generally nervy nature of Mark Bosnich's kicking, particularly when addressing the ball with his left foot, the Australian provided the launch-pad for Yorke's seventh-minute strike. The ball flew across the pitch until it was met by Watson, whose clearance bounced back off Yorke towards Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

In a blur of movement around Everton's box, Solskjaer found Cole, who in turn, released Yorke first-time through the middle. Gerrard narrowed the angle but Yorke found the target off the goal- keeper's trailing hand.

Thoughts of a rout were dispelled when John Collins and Scot Gemmill began to impose themselves on midfield, their industry matching that of Gough and Watson. Don Hutchison, set up by Mitch Ward, went close with a header before the game briefly turned nasty. Keane went into Hutchison, a legacy of an earlier confrontation, and suddenly 16 players were involved, though it was more bawling than brawling.

Three minutes into the second half, Everton should have equalised. Bosnich failed to hold Hutchison's shot, Nicky Barmby's effort was cleared off the line by Phil Neville and United then needed Henning Berg to deflect Campbell's follow-up.

United, though, then displayed their qualities, attacking from all angles. Keane was denied by Gerrard and Solskjaer fired wide but Everton held firm and equalised with four minutes remaining. David Unsworth's deep cross from the left was headed back by Barmby and Stam headed in.

Report The Electronic Telegraph

 
 United's turn to suffer
The Independent
 
Stam's late own goal cancels out early strike by Yorke to bring unfancied Everton their just reward

DRAMATIC LATE goals are Manchester United's stock in trade, but it is safe to say that the one scored by Jaap Stam in the final stages of yesterday's fiery North-western derby will not rank alongside the last- gasp strikes which added the European Cup to Old Trafford's heaving trophy cabinet.

United were just three minutes away from starting the defence of their Premiership title with a victory when Everton probed, more in hope than expectation, along their left flank. Whether through complacency, tiredness or fading concentration, Nick Barmby was allowed a free header, though the ball was passing across goal before the shaven head of Stam intervened to divert it past Mark Bosnich.

Everton, who had trailed to Dwight Yorke's goal with less than six and a half minutes of the new season played, ultimately deserved their good fortune. After a summer of defections from Goodison Park, a line-up liberally laced with Scots displayed commendable disinclination to bow to the seemingly inevitable. If, as expected, Bill Kenwright completes his takeover of the club from Peter Johnson this week, the future may not be as grim as some Evertonians have feared.

Nor should United be unduly dismayed by this setback. After all, last season's Treble-winning feats had their inauspicious origins in a home draw against Leicester. Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he was "a bit disappointed - we didn't kill the game off", yet praised his team's "good performance". Since he also found kind words for Everton's resilience, and even for the referee for allowing a relentless game to flow, perhaps the United manager is mellowing at last.

Whatever the truth, he was as positive as ever yesterday, setting the tone with a team formation which could transform itself in an instant from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 or even 4-2-4.

Ferguson's tactical bravado was in marked contrast with the approach adopted by Walter Smith, his Everton counterpart. Having had his already slender attacking options further diminished by the disaffection of Francis Jeffers - who did not even make the bench after demanding a transfer on Friday - Smith sent out a side evidently designed to stop rather than scare the champions.

The result was that until Don Hutchison pushed forward after half-time, Kevin Campbell never had the support he would require to repeat last spring's scoring spree. Whereas United began by attacking in swarms and defending in depth, Everton could at first emulate them only in the latter respect. Even then, their game plan was rumbled the second time it was tested.

A good job, said one press-box wag on noting that Everton were fielding two 37-year-old centre-backs, that United are short of pace up front. In the event, Dave Watson and Richard Gough were seldom sucked into situations where they would be outsprinted, but the sharpness and mobility of Yorke and Andy Cole were always problematic.

Paul Gerrard had already denied United a third-minute lead by blocking Paul Scholes's drive following an exquisitely chipped pass by Roy Keane.

However, after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had seized on a Watson header which hit Yorke, the ball was helped on at break-neck speed by Cole for Yorke to score briskly with a shot that the goalkeeper touched but could not keep out.

Despite such an early and devastating demonstration of United's powers, Everton responded with vigour and occasional flashes of style. They were doubtless encouraged by the rare sight of uncertainty in United's goal, where Bosnich began his career as Peter Schmeichel's replacement by nervously slicing a succession of clearances.

Everton's problem was that they could not exploit the Australian's unease. They came tantalisingly close twice. After 28 minutes Hutchison's header from Mitch Ward's cross was deflected on to and behind the far post by a defender.

Then, with three minutes of the second-half played Bosnich enjoyed a remarkable triple escape. No sooner had he spilled Hutchison's shot than he saw Barmby's follow-up cleared off the line by Phil Neville and Campbell's attempt to convert the rebound founder on Henning Berg's sliding tackle.

Hutchison had an eventful afternoon. On being scythed down by Keane in the first-half he leapt to his feet as if intent on exacting retribution when the referee broke up the 15-man fracas which ensued, the United captain was perhaps relieved to be merely cautioned after holding his adversary in a headlock.

As the second-half continued in similar helter-skelter fashion, the image seemed to sum up his team's grip on the points. Solskjaer nearly added to their advantage on two occasions, while Nicky Butt shot across the six-yard area as stoppage time beckoned. But Everton's fighting spirit, as much as United's inability to conjure the goal which would surely have broken it, conspired to create the kind of finish that Ferguson's men are accustomed to inflicting on others.

Report The Independent

 
 Everton make their point
by Oliver Holt, The Times
 
THE route has already been mapped out for Manchester United on their journey to the mastery of the universe. The circles on the globe have been drawn round Monaco, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro. Somehow, Goodison Park was left off the itinerary.

Interspersing the glamour of their attempts on the Super Cup, the Intercontinental Club Championship and the World Club Championship, there will be a multiplicity of matches like that of yesterday, contests in which United's domestic opponents give their all to try to rob the treble-winners of some of the exoticism that has built up around them.

On Merseyside, the rare air that United have been breathing since they won the European Cup was knocked out of them by an Everton side that looked far more cohesive and determined than many had predicted.

In a match seething with raw challenges and dripping with sweat and toil, any illusions United may have been under that their achievements of last season had somehow elevated them to a cut above the rest of the FA Carling Premiership were dispelled.

As opening statements go, this was nowhere near as persuasive or articulate as Chelsea's demolition of Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. United were brilliant in spells, stretching and teasing their opponents with some breathtaking one-touch football in the first half.

They should have had more to show for their supremacy than a neatly taken seventh- minute goal from Dwight Yorke, but, after the interval, as Everton refused to let their work-rate drop and Richard Gough continued to play flawlessly, the champions became more ponderous and predictable.

They still created chances but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, in particular, was guilty of uncharacteristic profligacy and, four minutes from the end, Nick Barmby's header across goal was deflected into his own net by Jaap Stam, who had been utterly unbeatable until then.

There was more good news for Everton after the game when a statement from Bill Kenwright suggested that he had moved closer to agreeing a deal to buy the club from the unpopular Peter Johnson. Walter Smith, the manager, said he would decide this week how to react to the transfer request from Francis Jeffers, the young striker, who was left out of the squad yesterday.

United's failure to kill off the game when it was at their mercy in the first half reflected more on their strikers than the creativity of their midfield. But the unwillingness of their manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, to rest on his laurels, was hinted at again after the game by a flurry of rumours linking United with a bid for Rivaldo, Barcelona's Brazil midfield player.

The gossip could be a product of the continuing struggle to persuade Roy Keane to sign a new contract. If he continues to stall on the deal United are offering him, it appears increasingly likely he will be sold, possibly to Internazionale and possibly as early as this week. "I don't comment on whispers," was all Ferguson would say about the move for Rivaldo.

Keane had shown as early as the third minute why the manager is desperate to keep him at Old Trafford. His passing is often overlooked because of his other, more combative strengths, but his early slide-rule ball freed Paul Scholes, whose shot was well saved by Paul Gerrard.

Four minutes later, United looked as though they were about to cut loose. Yorke made a clever run and was picked out by an equally astute pass from Cole that took him beyond the Everton offside trap. Gerrard got his left hand to Yorke's shot, but it bounced slowly into the net.

For the next 20 minutes, United controlled the game with ease, pulling Everton from pillar to post, but when their possession failed to create more chances, Everton dragged their way back into the match.

To begin with, they did it by harrying United out of their composure. Keane was rattled by a series of uncompromising challenges from Mitch Ward and Don Hutchison, and one irritable exchange between Gough and Beckham brought Ferguson leaping to his feet.

Despite that, United should have gone farther ahead two minutes before half-time. Yorke spun away from Dave Watson and Beckham played his pass over the top of the defence to perfection. Yorke controlled it, but Gerrard was equal to his stinging low shot.

Immediately after the interval, though, Everton signalled their intent. Mark Bosnich, whose bungled clearances were a constant source of concern for United's defence, failed to hold a volley from Hutchison and a mad scramble ensued. Barmby took the ball round the goalkeeper but his shot was kicked off the line by Phil Neville. Kevin Campbell tried to turn it back in, but his attempt was blocked and the danger passed.

Everton looked vulnerable when they allowed United's forwards to turn and run at them. On one occasion, Cole alarmed Watson with his pace and laid a pass square to Solskjaer. The goal beckoned but he sliced his shot wide.

After Nicky Butt had been brought on to try to steady the ship, Everton grabbed the equaliser they deserved. David Unsworth swung a cross deep to the back post and when Barmby headed it back, Stam flicked it past Bosnich.

"It was a game played at a real English pace and I know that Walter Smith can generate that kind of spirit in his sides," Ferguson said. "Everton deserved a point because they worked their socks off and their level of commitment was fantastic."

Report Times Newspapers Ltd

 
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