Date:21st August 2012 at 12:55am
Written by:

Man of the Match

The Premier League is back. With a fantastic summer of British sport behind us, it is now time to welcome back football to the weekly schedule, and all the drama that it brings through to May. With the weekend throwing up some surprising results. On Monday night, it was the turn of Manchester United to get their season under way, travelling to Goodison Park to take on Everton. 

With all the talk of the new signings and who would be making debuts, questions began to arise as to who would be starting at the back. With the welcome return of Vidic, it soon came to light that Rio Ferdinand had been ruled out, joining Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling on the sidelines and leaving United somewhat short of options at centre back. That left Michael Carrick to partner Nemanja Vidic, with Antonio Valencia at right back and Patrice Evra occupying the left back position. David De Gea was behind them in goal. In midfield, United opted for Cleverley, Paul Scholes and new-boy Kagawa, with Nani, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney leading the line.

The first half was a story of frustration for the visitors, with Everton controlling play and finding themselves with numerous opportunities to score. United by contrast, were slower off the mark, struggling to break down an organised home side, and despite some flashes of good play, particularly where Kagawa was involved, they failed to create any clear cut chances. In fact, it was Everton who should have gone in with the lead at the break but for the heroics of one David De Gea. The young Spaniard, now in his second season at Old Trafford and sporting a refreshed look, denied Jelavic and stopped Pienaar twice and tipped Baines’ free kick destined for the top corner.

However, it was the towering presence of Fellaini that gave United the greatest cause for concern. He looked sharp from the outset and United’s back line struggled to cope with him. Indeed, it was only fitting that the most problematic of the opposition was to score, as Fellaini beat Carrick to head home on 57 minutes. 1-0 to Everton.

United did not respond immediately, with Everton continuing to cause problems and control play, before Sir Alex Ferguson’s side began to pick up the pace, passing the ball around more and attempting to get forward. Yet they still could not find a way through. The closest they came to an equaliser was when Cleverley had a shot cleared off the line after a short scramble in the  box. With just over 20 minutes remaining, Robin Van Persie was called upon, replacing Danny Welbeck. Alas, it was not to be United’s day. Despite throwing men forward, they could not break down Moyes’ men, attempting to pass their way to goal with little effect and crosses failing to find people, with the home side seeing out the game for a deserved 1-0 victory and sparking scenes of jubilation for Evertonians.

A disappointing season opener, but one from which United can hope to improve, here are five things that may be taken from the game.

1) David De Gea – New look, great saves

Monday night saw the start of David De Gea’s second season at United, and unlike some of his teammates, looked sharp under pressure when Everton often looked like scoring. The Spanish ‘keeper’s shot stopping ability has never been in doubt but there have been questions over his physicality in the face of pressure situations such as corners. But his performance could not be faulted on this occasion, pulling off a string of superb saves in the first half, and United’s best player. He still looks somewhat engulfed in the goal, but De Gea seems to look a little bigger than he did last season, and it will be interesting to see how his development has come along further down the road.

2) Welcome back, Nemanja Vidic

Having spent much of last season injured, it was a welcome sight for United fans to find the name Vidic on the team sheet. Given the complete lack of central defenders, Vidic was more of a necessity than one would have hoped for right at the start of the season, with Michael Carrick linking up with him. His return was a decent one, given his length of time away from the pitch. He looked solid but ultimately could not overcome the defensive shortcomings himself. Michael Carrick is not a central defender and put up a noteworthy effort given the circumstances, although there ought to be question marks as to why he was the man charged with marking Fellaini for the only goal of the game. However, United’s defensive issues are not an excuse for the defeat.

3) Antonio Valencia – Wasted at right back

There was a unanimous voice of approval when Antonio Valencia was given the number 7 shirt at Old Trafford. the Ecuadorian has been a strong influence down the right wing since his arrival, and despite deputising at right back at certain points last season, one can be in no doubt his talents lie going forward. In some respects one can understand why he would be preferred to Rafael in the more defensive position, given his more disciplined nature and an ability to stay back, but in reality, it is a shame to see him played in such a way, given the threat he possesses going forward. Considering how flat United appeared in the final third, his influence would have been to greater effect had he started the game in an attacking position.

4) The season is young

With a start like this, it is always tempting to jump at the opportunity to say that the side is in trouble for the coming season, and rant at the poor signings and who should have been brought in, in a knee-jerk reaction that only the mind of a Football Manager 2012 devotee could muster up. However, one must remember that the first game of the season is no barometer of things to come. Ultimately, one must remember that new players are taking place in the side and a new style of play could well be adopted to accommodate them. On his debut, Kagawa looked impressive, playing slick passes to try to cut open the defense, linking up well with Rooney up front.

Robin Van Persie, coming off the bench, could not be expected to settle in straight away, having been at the club for a matter of days, it was always going to be a big ask to rescue the game when United were struggling to break through up front in the first place.

There were some areas of frustration for the United faithful. Wayne Rooney looked  off the pace and Nani struggled to have any impact whatsoever. But going forward the team as a whole were something of a let down, they were not clinical and Everton held up well when they needed to defend in the closing stages of the game.

5) Everton threatened, United did not

Despite having a reputation for slow starts in recent years, Everton started this campaign in the same way they ended the last one, controlling the midfield and looking dangerous going forward, picking up a deserved 3 points in which United could not get a hold on the game and failed to create the chances that their opponents did. No doubt, there are better things to come from Ferguson’s side, with Fulham at home the next challenge. Will Van Persie make his full home debut? What formation can we expect?

I, like many others, am looking forward to the season ahead and how United will play as the season develops.


16 responses to “Five Things We Learned – Everton vs. Manchester United”

  1. MickEFC says:

    What a well balanced and objective assessment of a great game of football between two contrasting sides. While United showed the slick passing and quality in possession we all expect, they somehow lacked that spark in the final 3rd to hurt Everton. The blues’ work rate made up for the deficiencies in the skills department and I find it strange to see an AF side not showing bite and guts and a will to win. We may have won the game, but I think a misjudgement of the opposition was part of Utd’s downfall. Has Fergie outstayed his sell by date by a couple of years? Maybe a change from the old routine to a modern younger boss would freshen up the squad and re-ignite the desire at OT once again. Even so, I think the Red Devils will be in the top 3 again, and maybe even turn the tables on the noisy neighbours and their retarded manager this year. Good luck

  2. the kaizer says:

    And 6 rooney need to loose weight and learn the basics

  3. xmas says:

    You guys are slacking.

    This is a perfect time for Jay to be writing a piece on how all we need is more Welbeck.

    “If the genius of Longsight had only been allowed his full 90 minutes he would have proven to SAF how needless his spending on RVP was!”

    The piece above says:

    “Robin Van Persie, coming off the bench, could not be expected to settle in straight away, having been at the club for a matter of days, it was always going to be a big ask to rescue the game when United were struggling to break through up front in the first place.”

    Wasn’t a certain Aguero on the other side of town lighting things up in his first game for City? Sub or not, it’s not impossible to make an impact in one’s first game.

    The sad thing about this game was that it looked A LOT like a game from last season which all this money later we all would have hoped wouldn’t have been the case.


    -Why wasn’t Vidic marking Fellaini, Everton’s tallest player?

    -How did that fall to Carrick, the makeshift CB?

    -Why is Rooney so fat and heartless but always allowed to play 90 mins?

    -Why did Welbeck start?

    -Why didn’t Rafael start? Either he’s going to be our RB or he’s not. Valencia never will be.

    -Why loan out Fabio and then buy some other guy to provide backup for Evra?

    -Why do we have 6 strikers?

    -Why is Berba on the bench instead of Chicharito if Berba’s on sale?

    -Has Cleverley ever had a game as good as last year’s Charity Shield?

    -Is Anderson actually a little thinner this season?

    -Didn’t we start last season with this pass-pass-pass-pass-pass-pass-pass-pass-pass-pass-cross-miss thing and then abandon it for pace?

    -Isn’t “pace” the reason why Berba wasn’t allowed to play? If we pass, he might as well play. He can at least hold onto a ball.

    etc. etc. etc.

    • Zayd says:

      Aguero did indeed have an immediate impact, but in a game where little was being achieved, Van Persie having been a united player for a matter of days, was never going to add a huge amount coming off the bench.

  4. detoy117 says:

    i think SAF is sick why must you play rooney for 90mins when right from start he was rubbish… bringing van P on was unnecessary when the problem lies in th mid-field Paul and cleverly are too small to handle the Belgium player why wait till 84mins to address the issue… as an experienced manager he should know better… the two mid-fid player plays alike u need Anderson in @ around 60mins to disturb maroune and charge the ball forward remove rooney instead of wellbeck or withdraw him back…… dis manager is old and out of clue…. can someone pls get me PEP G, or Jose M

  5. timbo says:

    Yeah right. Everyone will doubtless write this off as an early season aberration, of new players learning to mesh, but the signs were there all game that the same problems that have beset United for the last few seasons are still there, most specifically the lack of penetration through the middle.

    The team just looked utterly bereft of ideas in the final third of the pitch and lacked any kind of incisiveness, with everyone just passing the ball backwards and forwards across the pitch hoping someone else could figure out what to do. The tentativeness and indecision was utterly frustrating to watch.

    Up front the strikers were next to useless, and of course Rooney could be relied upon as ever to spray the ball wildly trying to go for goal from even medium distance.

    Note also how Van Persie instantly highlighted exactly how playing opposite Rooney up front is a graveyard for even the best of strikers. How long before he too gets consigned to the ‘waste of money’ dump where everyone assigns Rooney’s failed playing partners, rather than pointing the finger at the real problem – Rooney himself. As with Berbatov, so too with Van Persie in that both like to play deeper, in the second striker role Rooney favors as well. Two into one won’t go, so someone will have to give and be the poorer for the move.

    The game was simply a disheartening example of what we can expect this season, especially against better teams. United will use the same old routine of banging away up the sidelines and mounting quick counter-attacks to try and score, in lieu of any real or consistent threat through the middle. That lack of options not only limits United’s attacking opportunities, but makes the team easier to defend. And the better teams know that any games Scholes plays in will see him being the team metronome, and the way to completely put United off their game these days is to press him and completely cut down his time to orchestrate play. He just doesn’t have the legs or speed any more to do anything other than play much deeper than he used to in order to give himself more time, which limits his influence.

    So no, we don’t need world class midfielders, not at all! And if you believe that, I have a ‘genuine’ Rolex watch I’m willing to let you have for fifty pounds, okay?

  6. John Tring says:

    1. SAF is finished as a manager ( he played Cleverley and Kagawa together, 2 very similar softies along with a retiree in midfield and wasted the only player, Valencia at the back, who could offer some hope going forward). 2. Evra should have been shunted out long ago 3. Nani is the most regressed player in the league 4. SAF’s sad and bad dealings last summer is biting back yet again. Young is less than average and Jones has flattered to deceive. He should have used the money to buy 2 or 3 defenders. 5. Fellaini should have been bought this summer if not earlier.

  7. Robin Reliant says:

    Couldn’t believe that Welbeck made way for RIP last night. The Fatman and Robin duo did not combine once in the last 20 mins. RVP played a good ball which Kagawa almost got on the end of, but Rooney was completely anon throughout.

    With both strikers on at least £200,000 a week the pressure will be on straight away, no time for settling in, especially while it looks like the money could have been spent on defence or defensive midfield.

    And Scholes could easily have been sent off, his 3 most telling contributions were fouls.

  8. Ez says:

    6) If Sir Alex doesnt trust Rafaek then he should buy another Right back,
    7) Rooney was uninterested.

  9. Ez says:

    6) If Sir Alex doesnt trust Rafaek then he should buy another Right back,
    7) Rooney was uninterested.
    8) Defensive midfield is what we desperately need!

  10. Stone Roses says:

    Good post