I haven’t read any of the match reports – the following is my personal view of what happened during the game and what it means for both Manchester United and Everton.
Watching this game, I had to stop myself time and time again for applauding Everton’s play – the ‘smaller’ club from Merseyside showed the fighting spirit, tactical nous, aggression and sheer quality of a club worthy of playing in the Champions League next season.
In August I had commented somewhere that Everton had perhaps the best transfer policy of the Premier League – a thought that was proven beyond doubt today as Jagielka, Baines and Yakubu gave Everton not only a fighting chance to win the game but will also have led many viewers to consider that Everton were ‘unlucky’ not to have taken 3 points from the game. I don’t agree with that but apart from the result (and that bullet header by Vidic – god bless his Serbian noggin) there was little to choose between the two sides.
Manchester United Players
It was good to see Wayne Rooney not on the bench (he needs to be rested as much as possible for his own good) but seeing Silvestre starting for Manchester United and Saha on the bench was cause for concern. After two weeks, Louis Saha is still not fit enough to get a full 90 minutes for Manchester United – he’s already played a few reserve games and a 4-4-2 with Saha’s pace up front would have made a lot of difference in the early exchanges. Still, the gaffer has his reasons and if Saha needs to be eased in, no problems with that.
But are we really that badly off in defense that we have Silvestre playing at left-back? Presumably the move was to give Manchester United more defensive cover as Patrice Evra can be exposed at times, but our 3rd choice left back from last season and a player who has never been a fan favourite is now the first person Ferguson looks to when we need a reliable defender?
I’ve discussed this more here.
Overall, we did good in a difficult game, although we sorely missed Hargreaves in central midfield. Scholesy is still getting silly bookings and Giggsy didn’t look any good in the support striker role.
It was good to see Rio Ferdinand take the captain’s armband when Giggs was taken off though – future Manchester United captain anyone?
Brown did reasonably well – he was up against quality players and he came out battered but standing. Some of the criticism leveled against him is shocking – he had a better game than Ronaldo, who was well shackled by Baines and extremely poor from the free kicks (can’t you practice making the ball go OVER the wall – come on!).
Tevez is looking really good – both him and Nani are working hard and improving as the season goes on. For Tevez to score we need another striker next to him (or we need someone other than Scholes playing in midfield so Tevez doesn’t have to drop so deep), although away from home against Lisbon we’re pretty sure of starting with a 4-5-1 formation, again.
I was very impressed with the way Arteta, Baines and Yakubu stuck to their task as well as with the work rate of Jagielka and Andy Johnson. Phil Neville did a good job on Tevez as well and overall Everton were very solid and quite good going forward.
Credit to David Moyes for building this squad and for my money, Everton are the surest bets for a 5th place finish in the Premier League (Tottenham don’t stand a chance).
Alan Wiley made a few mistakes (as I noted in the comments thread of the match preview) and I understand that it’s hard to get all decisions right. However, there were 2 clear incidents in which post-match video replays by the ref could have helped in giving the right decisions.
For starters, there was the dive by Baines right outside the Manchester United penalty area, which should have been a yellow card (give him a yellow card after the game, why not?). Then there was a two-footed sliding tackle by Yakubu on Edwin van der Sar where Yak caught the keeper long after the ball had gone. A yellow card offense considering that this was no where near a ‘defensive’ tackle.
I’m sure there were other incidents in which things were not so clear – we can’t fix everything in one fell swoop, but maybe we can do it step by step?
The Future for Manchester United and Everton
Manchester United will be 4th, at worst, after the day’s over, and things are looking up for the Red Devils. I still don’t think we’ll win the title, but you never know, it’s still early days and things are wide open.
Everton – fantastic game and they’ll do well this season. 5th place beckons.