Manchester United 0-1 Everton
The number of times we’ve dropped points at home to opponents who were simply better organised than us has already become a very worrying feature of the Reds’ season. Everton, who’d not won at United since Giggsy was a virgin (well, probably not actually) walked away with all three points to spoil the same player’s return to the same ground as a forty-year old. That it was also the United boss’s old club’s first chance to have a pop at his new one added significant spice to the victory for the travelling Everton fans. That the visitors played throughout with a confidence that they could win an encounter they’ve so rarely got anything from spoke volumes for the current state of the former fortress of Old Trafford.
It was a tight game that might have gone either way before Oviedo snatched the winner in the 84th minute. When he did, Everton had only just got back into the game following a period of concerted pressure from United. Mirallas had just struck the post for the visitors, mirroring the fate of a Welbeck header that had followed Howard’s point-blank save from Evra. Until the goal, both had represented the two sides’ best chances on goal.
It’s not that United hadn’t created opportunities before that, but they were few and far between and Howard was rarely troubled. Rooney was a lively figure but he struggled to exert the influence around the box of late, finding Distin and Jagielka solid opponents in the Everton rearguard. While Fellaini picked away efficiently alongside Giggs in midfield, there was once again a worrying lack of tenacity in the centre of the pitch, something apparent whenever Jones is absent at the moment. That a makeshift central midfielder should be missed to this extent tells you all you need to know about the lack of options for United in this area.
As United’s best period of play wilted, we settled into pensive mode and mulled over the prospect another Premier League draw. Everton and Oviedo had other ideas, though, and the left-back’s appearance at the far post to slide Lukaku’s pass beyond De Gea made sure an already disappointing night got even worse. The gap between the Reds and the top teams widened further, the unbeaten won came to an end and the need for signings to strengthen the midfield in the January window shouted easily as loud as the Everton fans on the final whistle.