Manchester United 2 (2) – (0) 0 Everton
By Thom Power
Sir Alex Ferguson has always said that this corresponding fixture last season is the reason why his team lost the Premier League title to rivals Manchester City. Unfortunately for Everton, lightning didn’t striker twice.
Goals from Ryan Giggs and Robin Van Persie in the first half of this encounter ensured that Ferguson had nothing to worry about this time around, and despite a couple of half chances David Moyes may be feeling a little unnerved by his side’s lack of clinicalness in the final third of the pitch once more.
The Scot made one change from the side that had drawn with Aston Villa a week ago, with club captain Phil Neville replacing Sylvain Distin, who was originally chosen to start the match but complained of feeling unwell during the warm up. John Heitinga, therefore, kept his place in the starting eleven.
Determined not to let the Blues get on top from the first whistle, United pressed high up the pitch and should have taken the lead sooner than they did. Van Persie beat the offside trap to round Tim Howard in the Everton goal, but after doing the hard bit the Dutchman contrived to send his effort crashing against the post from an acute angle.
It mattered not as two minutes later he assisted Giggs for the opening goal. Heitinga was caught square by a pass from the right wing, and Van Persie slid the ball through to Giggs, whose right footed effort cannoned into the net off the left hand post.
Unperturbed, Everton set about hauling themselves level and almost did through Leon Osman. The 31 year old was fed the ball by Steven Pienaar, and he sent a dipping left footed volley that was turned behind by David De Gea. Victor Anichebe also saw a half chance go begging, as a low cross from Kevin Mirallas was poked behind by Rafael with the Nigerian lurking.
Van Persie was causing Everton’s rearguard some nervy moments with his ability to beat the offside trap, and after being flagged offside twice in as many minutes the 30 year old finally broke through. A through ball cut the Everton defence in half, and Van Persie rounded Howard once more and applied the finishing touch despite Heitinga’s best efforts to keep the ball out.
The second half became a ponderous affair with Everton unable to find a way back into the match, and United happy to sit on the scoreline that they had. Jonny Evans came closest to adding a third, however; his headed attempt parried by Howard and his follow up shot blocked on the line by Nikica Jelavic following a Van Persie corner. Howard then saved spectacularly from Tom Cleverley’s dipping right foot volley.
Everton’s best chance of the second half fell to substitute Jelavic, whose right footed strike was palmed away by De Gea after the Croatian had latched onto a loose ball following a mistake by Chris Smalling.
It was the best the Toffees could muster in a match where chances were at a premium, and Moyes will now have to pick his charges up for the upcoming FA Cup tie at Oldham.
Man of the Match: Phil Jagielka. Despite conceding two goals Jagielka was at his very best to halt the likes of Van Persie and Rooney from adding to United’s tally, especially in the first half.