Manchester United 0 Everton 1

FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-EVERTON

Dave.

Dave!

DAVE!

Dave, come and have a look at this for us. No, a close look. That’s it.

grass

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.

Dave.

Dave!

Dave!

Come and have a look at these for us.

apples

Manchester United Preview

The Anchormen

Manchester, so much to answer for.

In an extremely unusual move this beginning bit has actually been rewritten. It originally started off looking over David Moyes’s time at Everton and how he left and what he did for the club and then weighing up how Roberto Martinez has taken over and what he’s done differently and it tried to be all reasonable in the face of the ‘he’s just a ginger twat who held us back’ sort of sentiments. But we’ve been over all that loads of times now and at the end of the day he’s the Manchester United manager now and we have a new fella in charge who seems to be doing just dandy, so really, why dwell on it?

Ok, we will a bit then, just to say that ultimately the whole situation boils down to this: we had a really good manager who left on a high and he appears to have been replaced by another pretty decent one. It’s rare that happens – most new managers are brought in to sift through the last fella’s carnage and are then sacked when they can’t do it quickly enough – so shouldn’t we really be more pleased about how things panned out?

That said, Moyes certainly won’t get any Cardiff-esque ‘for he’s a jolly good fellow’ reception from the travelling Blues at Old Trafford, but really he must have known that when he started making bids for his former club’s players.

And that’s on him.

He had every right to make offers for them of course, as manager of United he has to do what’s right by them, but he did it knowing perfectly well that he was burning bridges. He had the whole of world football to aim at, and was freed of the financial constraints that were supposedly holding his career back at Everton, and yet he still showed what looked like a certain lack of imagination by immediately trying to buy Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini. It was the transfer equivalent of goosing your brother Rhodri’s missus.

After all, was it not enough that he had already deprived us of Steve Round?

The more you see the former Everton coach, with his little legs dangling off the end of them big red Audi seats, the more he looks like Salford’s answer to Anchorman’s Brick Tamland. The next time he gets sent out to face the press after a defeat then – hopefully on Wednesday night, right kids! – don’t be surprised if he stares into the camera and says: ‘I ate fibreglass insulation. It wasn’t cotton candy like the guy said. My tummy itches.’

Going back to the transfer window for a moment, for all the good that Moyes did for Everton while in charge, there’s a case to made that one of his greatest gifts to the Toffees never came until he was sitting posing awkwardly in Alex Ferguson’s faux-leather ‘executive’ chair.

That’s right, the bizarre fee he paid for Fellaini.

That fat end of £30 million certainly gave his successor the freedom to manoeuvre in the transfer market – even those ‘loans’ don’t come for free, remember – and Everton are undoubtedly much stronger as a result, despite the Belgian being an important player during his last couple of seasons at Goodison.

Indeed, here’s one for you, if given the opportunity right now what would you do if offered a straight swap: United’s £27 million midfielder for Everton’s £10 million one, James McCarthy?

A chin scratcher and no mistake.

As a result of that strengthening, this new look Everton certainly travel down the M62 with more hope of winning than they have for a long time. It is worth pointing out at this point though that Everton are hardly unique in struggling to get anything but battered away to United in recent history. In a move that almost resembled research we counted that they have lost a total of 16 league games at home during the last ten years.

Think of some of the boss teams that they have faced in the Premier League during that spell – that’s some going by anyone’s standards.

The big question now though is whether they can maintain those levels of performance in the absence of the force of nature, willpower and sheer stubborn spite that was, and indeed is, old poison pen himself, Ferguson. Rather unsurprisingly, their recent form would suggest that they can’t.

Indeed, the fact that Everton are a point above them in December tells its own story. Granted, we have had a good start, but for them to be outside of the Champions League placings at this stage of the season is almost unheard of.

So it feels like a lot rides on this game in many ways. In the big scheme of things it’s only three points but – and we do like do hark on rather pretentiously about ‘constructing narratives’ – in terms of the stories that are being written here, at both Everton and United, this feels very much like the big reveal at the end of the first act.

If Everton win the story will be all about how Martinez has changed the mentality at Everton – Moyes must have regretted that ‘get out of Old Trafford alive’ quote as soon as it passed his lips – and there may even be the odd whisper that Dave Whelan had a point when he said that the Glazers made a mistake by overlooking the Spaniard, even though it’s far too early to know that, whatever the result.

At this stage though it is all about perceptions.

If United win, although it will be deflating for Evertonians the wider story is far less dramatic – normal service resumed and all that – so the pressure is definitely on Moyes in a big way here. Essentially, if we go and attack and play all the football, as we have done in all but a couple of our games so far this season, while his United team continue to struggle, seemingly in search of their identity, then he could end up looking quite the plum.

Let’s make it so.

Before we get too bullish though, it’s worth remembering that despite what’s been dubbed a pretty poor start for them they will actually move above us if they win here, and that they still have a decent team – indeed a Championship-winning one – containing the outstanding Wayne Rooney. The newly svelte, syrup-sporting soccer sensation has looked back to his best since Moyes arrived, which is something of a turn up for the books considering the brooding Bronte-esque relationship they endured when both were at Everton.

Not selling him to Chelsea was one of the most important pieces of business that anyone did, or didn’t do, this summer.

Intergalactic gameshow host Robin van Persie could possibly be back in the side too – great! – and after his sensational game against a poor Stoke City we will probably get a much better idea of just how good Bryan Oviedo is when we see him up against Antonio Valencia’s throbbing combination of pace, persistence and protein powders.

The more you think about this game though, the more it looks like a potential nightmare for Moyes. His cautious image was always going to represent one of the major hurdles in terms of this United job and that’s proven the case. The onus is on him to send out a team with orders to really go for Everton then, in true ‘United style’, but on the other hand he knows that could play right into Martinez’s hands.

We need to play on that fear.

And if ever there was a night to go and play possession football, even in those relatively safe areas that we sometimes complain about, then this is it. Get them chasing around – like Chile did against England at Wembley – deprive them of possession if we can, and make them start to second-guess themselves and get the crowd on their back before choosing the right opportunities to really take the game to them.

Most importantly though, when we do that and we create chances we need to be bold, commit men forward and be more ruthless than we were against Liverpool.

Much will depend on Romelu Lukaku, and again we don’t want to overplay this point – which as you know is what we always say before doing just that – but he needs to take a look at Rooney, a player who lacks his physical gifts, and how he makes defenders earn every ball. If he doesn’t then Nemanja Vidic, whose booming telly-screen-shattering tackle on Kyle Walker on Sunday hasn’t had anything like the love it deserves, will walk straight through him.

A proper, man-sized performance from the Belgian could make all the difference – if the ball sticks with him up front he can provide the platform from which the other attackers can really hurt United.

Blimey! Are you excited yet?

Anyway, enough of all that, men, we’ve talked the talk. It’s time to go and do the hard bit.

FUCKENGERRINTOTHEMEVERTON!

Adventures In The Skin Trade

james-mccarthy

Going to bed an hour before the transfer deadline means that you never know quite what you are going to wake up to – a bit like Christmas Eve.

Well, that is if there’s a chance that Santa Claus might drunkenly stamp your Big Trak into plastic shards and leave a big shit on the Axminster.

‘How could you not stay tuned for Jim White’s vinegar strokes though?’ you ask, knowing that the Blues were embroiled in a veritable tug-of-war with West Bromwich Albion for the services of staggered-run Super Cup spot-kick scuffer Romelu Lukaku? Well, despite being more philosophical than most about Everton’s position in football’s new world order, the thought of them desperately battling (i.e upping the wages on offer) to sign some fucking Chelsea reserve is not a welcome one.

It’s like you accept that your ma has to do whatever she can to feed her crack problem, but it doesn’t mean you want to watch her down on her knees at the docks. And you certainly don’t want running commentary from Vinny O’Connor.

It is, it’s exactly like that.

And while we’re on the subject of unsavoury sexual shenanigans, you have to say that years of being the cutest little thing on the Premier League prison yard has taught Everton a trick or two about survival while David Moyes appears to be struggling in his new role as top dog. The Manchester United manager eventually got what he wanted from the Blues, namely the signature of Marouane Fellaini, but the eventual price of £27.5 million – four more than he could have had him for the other week – represents a badly bitten cock.

Roberto Martinez took the money, or at least a portion of it, and replaced the versatile Fellaini with three specialists. Lukaku is a big centre-forward who scored 17 goals last season while on loan at West Brom – he certainly appears to be an upgrade on the strikers already at the club. The Baggies wanted him back by all accounts, but instead were left to sign our own Victor Anichebe instead. It’s reported that deal could eventually be worth £6 million, which few people would argue looks decent business for the Toffees. Anichebe made great strides last season in terms of his form, but did anyone ever see him genuinely becoming the first-choice Everton centre-forward? Good luck to him though – there will be a lot of expectation on him at the Hawthorns, especially as they not only missed out on getting Lukaku back but also allowed Shane Long to go to Hull City.

In terms of the roles Fellaini was asked to do in midfield, Martinez made another loan signing in the shape of Gareth Barry, a dedicated deep-lying or defensive player. It’s not the most glamorous appointment ever, granted, but in terms of ability he has always been underrated, and a title-winning England international can hopefully bring a degree of experience and character to the side. Don’t roll your eyes too soon, he might prove to be a very shrewd signing.

Finally, all-action – whatever that means – Wigan midfielder James McCarthy completed his protracted move to Goodison for the princely sum of £13 million. It’s a few bob, that’s for sure, but McCarthy has always impressed since a televised game against Liverpool that the Latics won 1-0. He left the field at the end purple in the face after harassing Steven Gerrard worse than an infamous local villain. At the time, Evertonians were trying to convince themselves that their own young midfielder Jack Rodwell’s ability to get through every game with his shorts spotless was a signifier of ‘class’, but unlike the golden boy McCarthy is no stranger to graft having made his debut amongst the shopping trollies and melted wheely bins of the Scottish First Division a day before his 16th birthday.

Martinez certainly appears to rate him as well.

With Leighton Baines remaining at Goodison then, and three almost certain first-team starters replacing one, you have to say that Everton have come out of this transfer window far better than they might have.

And as an added bonus, Moyes and Manchester United have emerged looking like absolute plums.

Cardiff City 0 Everton 0

barkley

Four games in and already these match reports feel a bit monotonous.

Faced with another side who Everton really should expect to beat, they once again dominated the possession but never really looked dangerous for any sustained period. And when you hear people saying we look like Liverpool did when Brendan Rodgers first arrived, and mean it in a positive way – as in ‘and look at them now’ – you know things aren’t going exactly to script so far for Roberto Martinez.

In his defence, Everton were denied a copper-bottomed penalty when Gary Medel’s on Leighton Baines was so late it actually started off in black and white, but there is still much work to be done if the Blues are going to finish around the position that we have all become accustomed to.

As someone commented on Saturday, the basics of the football we are playing are sound, but it just has to be done so much quicker. We have players like Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pienaar, Ross Barkley and Leighton Baines who are clever and great at exploiting space, but the ponderous approach denies them any to work in. Eventually every move seems to break down with one of them vainly trying to ‘McFadden’ their way past a defender from a standing start. Either that or a wacky, off-balance shot from long distance.

Not having a competent centre-forward doesn’t help matters though. It’s still too early to pass a definitive judgement on Arouna Kone, but the biggest criticism of the Ivorian is that he has yet to do enough to convince the manager to start him ahead of Nikica Jelavic.

The notoriously harsh Everton supporters have been patience personified with the Croatian, but his performances seem beyond a joke now. One deflected header that forced a brilliant save from David Marshall, and a cross that Mirallas should have buried, were about the sum total of his contribution to the game. The rest was painful to watch.

However, he’s never been the best target man, which is why David Moyes used to deploy Marouane Fellaini up front. Martinez seems reluctant to do that – preferring to let the Belgian play in the withdrawn role that he favours, presumably because it allows him to gambol about playing when he feels like. It’s a waste – further forward Fellaini is forced to get involved and use the attributes that make him a unique threat. Phil Neville can play the role he’s fulfilling at the moment.

This is more than likely going to be a moot point by Tuesday though, with the Belgian press apparently letting slip that Fellaini is definitely on his way to Old Trafford. Fancy that.

It remains to be seen whether Baines will follow him there – some papers seem to think that Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand is already lined up as a replacement.

If selling one or both of those players allows Martinez to bring in individuals who can make his system work better than perhaps it will be for the best in the long run because so far, against pretty modest opposition, the players he has inherited are struggling to make any real impact.