Everton 1-0 Manchester United – 20/08/2012
Similar to the 4-4 draw in the previous season, there was no apparent midfield threat on Marouane Fellaini. He was free to recieve the ball unchallenged both aerially and on the ground. Neither midfielder could match his power. He put in a man of the match performance and his goal from the corner to outstrength his marker epitomised his whole game.
Midfield was ultimately the position where the game was lost last night. Paul Scholes, despite his almost 100 passes and almost 100% pass completion rate, looked off the pace a bit. Playing deeper of the two midfielders, often in the game we’d see the mismatch that was Fellaini and Scholes challenging for the ball, a scenario which Scholes was never likely to win. Paul Scholes’ midfield partner Tom Cleverley had played quite well last night. As well as being efficient in possession and moving the ball around in the opposition third, he tried to get stuck into challenges as best he could.
When we were in possession the tempo was slow. Many of our passes took place in the opposition half but could not penetrate the wall of 10 players standing between our midfield and the goal. We tried to force the play out wide with, sometimes, aimless crosses which were headed straight back to us. For all the possession we did have, we offered little going forward and that ultimately cost us. Man Utd had only 1 clear chance in the whole game when the ball fell kindly for Tom Cleverley however a goal-line clearance from Phil Jagielka ensured victory would be Everton’s.
New signings Shinji Kagawa and Robin Van Persie both made appearances in the game, Kagawa from the start and Van Persie off the bench. Shinji Kagawa was probably Manchester United’s most impressive outfield player on the night. He was very good in possession and almost linked up with Robin Van Persie to score but didn’t quite reach the ball before the goalkeeper. Kagawa played the ball through a few times but those occasions didn’t lead to anything. Van Persie came on for the last 20 minutes but he barely had a touch of the ball in any kind of advanced position.
In attack, for me this had to be up there with some of Wayne Rooney’s worst performances. He looked unfit and was very unimpressive. He was barely involved in the game, which is unlike Rooney even when he is off form. Danny Welbeck did his best in an unfamiliar role on the left of midfield but was largely ineffective. Nani had one of those games he has 2 or 3 times a season where everything just goes horribly wrong for him. Nothing came off for both Rooney and Nani last night and that was one of the reasons why we offered little going forward. Ashley Young came on as a substitute however he had little time to impact on the game.
- Chris Smalling
- Phil Jones
- Jonny Evans
- Rio Ferdinand
With only 2 actual defenders in our defence, it was understandably shaky. Injuries and fitness worries forced us to play Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia in defence, clearly not their preferred positions. Nemanja Vidic did well and got through the game without any problems and Patrice Evra was neither great, nor poor. Despite being below par, no real blame can be attached onto such a makeshift defence. David De Gea had a fantastic game. Played exactly how a Manchester United goalkeeper should be and kept the scoreline down to 1-0, it could’ve been a bigger margin last night.
In hindsight, I feel Anderson could’ve done a job on Fellaini. He is quite a big lad, more physical than the rest of our midfield. He had a decent pre-season and could’ve provided that bite that was lacking. Sometimes team selection has to be influenced by the opposition and I feel after last season’s fixture at Old Trafford, this should’ve been one of them. Fellaini was free to do as he pleased, he outstrengthed all those around him. Scholes in midfield and Carrick in defence were the two main victims of Fellaini’s strength, something which caused havok for most of the game. At least Anderson, with his physicality, may have gone some way to countering that threat.
Anyway, onwards and upwards. Roll on Saturday…