Dave, come and have a look at this for us. No, a close look. That’s it.
Does that grass look greener to you?
If that comes across as something of a cheap shot, well, it was meant to.
Like most Evertonians we set ourselves up for one almighty fall with our pre-game optimism, but finally the Blues went out and delivered exactly what they promised, winning at Old Trafford for the first time since Robert Warzycha juggled the ball over Gary Pallister and Maurice Johnston mugged Peter Schmeichel right off.
As expected, Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas returned to the starting line-up and the Belgian winger had the first decent effort of the game, a long range boomer that David De Gea punched over the bar. In truth though, United actually edged much of the first half.
They weren’t amazing by any means, but they exerted a bit more control than Everton and created more openings. Tim Howard smothered efforts by Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa before the former’s deflected shot struck the inside of the post before being hacked to safety. Ryan Giggs then got his head on a corner and watched as the ball faded across the goal and finished inches wide of the far post.
The Blues grew into the match though but at times looked like a side that relies quite heavily on its young players: Barkley, Romelu Lukaku and Seamus Coleman were all guilty of poor some decision-making and minty passing in the instances when United were dissected on the counter-attack.
Everton’s best moments of the half came when De Gea had to block a Lukaku shot with his knees and then looked beaten when Mirallas connected with Coleman’s low cross, only for Chris Smalling to make a desperate block.
A lifetime – for some people anyway – of seeing us turned over at the Theatre of Broken Dreams made you wonder whether the lack of experience and those missed chances would prove costly.
Evidently not though.
Because in the second half Everton were just sensational. For the first 20 minutes or so after the break especially, they looked like a good German or Spanish side playing the second leg of a Champions League tie as they did absolutely everything that we demanded of them in the match preview.
Let’s put it out there, under David Moyes we often frustrated the top sides by sitting deep and being ‘compact’, but this time we did it by just keeping the ball. As expected, when we did that they in turn became scared of giving it away – mindful that they wouldn’t see the thing again for a good while – and so became inhibited and, at times, looked an absolute shambles.
Match of the Day highlighted the lack of protection that was afforded the United defence, but failed to pinpoint the fact that Marouane Fellaini is, and always has been, a terrible defensive midfielder. Yes, it’s the position he prefers, but that doesn’t mean it’s his best, otherwise Moyes wouldn’t have preferred his half a million quid signing Darron Gibson in that role for Everton. Or Phil Neville.
Anyway, that’s their problem now. With the new look Toffees bang on their game, the sweet music of the United supporters’ whistling and Moyes’s ashen face as he was forced into a double substitution after an hour told their own rather marvellous story.
Indeed, on 70 minutes the home fans were apoplectic as Lukaku spun on the halfway line and played in substitute Gerard Deulofeu down the right wing. The little Spaniard needs little invitation to go for goal but, just like in the derby, he appeared to forget that he wasn’t facing the Bosnia under-20s keeper and ballsed his one-on-one up, shooting tamely at De Gea’s legs.
The introduction of Adnan Januzaj did liven the home side up a bit and Everton had to defend well during United’d best spell of the second half, one that saw Howard palm out Patrice Evra’s header from a corner before Danny Welbeck headed the rebound onto the bar.
After that brief burst though Everton reasserted control – Mirallas hit the post with a free-kick – and you got the feeling that even their furious fans suspected that the winning goal, scored on 86 minutes, was coming.
The Blues, away at United, less than five minutes away from ‘escaping’ with a point, were camped out on the edge of their box when the ball was fired into the feet of Lukaku who was revelling in his personal duel with Nemanja Vidic. The on-loan Chelsea striker spun and scuffed a shot right across goal and time seemed to slow down as the ball entered the unguarded space at the far post. As the wrong-footed United defenders spun, the flesh on their faces wobbling like beagles with their heads out of the car window and De Gea, his eyes wide with horror, emitted a low, distorted scream of ‘Noooooooooooo……’ the action returned to full speed and little Costa Rican Richie Cunningham, Bryan Oviedo, drilled his shot home.
He’s had to wait a while like, but Jesus Christ…
Anyway, blue smoke drifted across the pitch as Everton threatened to make the scoreline even more emphatic in the final minutes, with Lukaku and Deulofeu ending breaks with wildly ambitious shots, but it didn’t matter, United’s spirit was well and truly broken by then.
Come and have a look at these for us.