Goodison defeat does not bode well for title aspirations

Duncan Ferguson

Manchester United’s defeat to Everton was only the third time in Premier League history Evertonian’s got one over us at Goodsion Park. The first defeat at Goodison in the Premier League was in February 1995, when a Daniel Amokachi gave the Toffees a 1-0 victory. They had to wait another ten years to taste victory against United, another header from an Everton legend – Duncan Ferguson – gave the home side a 1-0 victory, which helped in their push for a fourth place finish. On both occasions we lost the league to Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea respectively. In 1995 we were without our talisman Eric Cantona, whilst in 2005 we arguably had a team in transition – but what was our excuse yesterday?

United were well and truely beaten by a much improved Everton side who played with urgency and closed down United high up the pitch – which forced United’s defenders to clear their lines quickly. Jonny Evans is a great prospect for the club but has had a torrid last two games – most noticeably in Milan gifting possession to the opposition on a number of occasions. He has played in 23 games so far this season (one more than Anderson), compared to 34 last season, so I don’t think he is need of a rest – especially considering he missed a chunk of the season over Christmas. I generally believe he is just in a bad run of form and the best way to get through that is to keep playing games and show the class that we all know he has. Although, I believe that Ferguson will play both Ferdinand and Vidic on Tuesday against West Ham.

The defeat in 1995 was a big blow because we were neck and neck with Blackburn Rovers at the time and the defeat was a major set back. We only lost one more time that season (2-0 away at Liverpool), which was our sixth defeat of the season – the same amount that we have lost so far in this campaign. Having said that, our defeats this season have come at Burnley (who have only lost twice at home), at Liverpool (who were coming into the came after a number of defeats), at Chelsea (where we put in a great performance and only lost through a controversial John Terry header), at home to Villa (who played very well but we should have got a draw out of the game), at Fulham (playing a three man defense due to an injury crisis) and away at Everton (and were rightfully beaten). Of course every season is very different from the last and I think we’re all in agreement this league campaign has been a very mixed bag, with a number of surprise results that have made it a very open campaign for the title, European places and relegation battle.

I am of course not suggesting that due to the fact that we lost in 95 and 05 to Everton we will lose the league this campaign because of this coincidence – I still think we have a decent chance with our run in being more favourable than Chelsea’s – plus they still have to come to Old Trafford. Many United fans are still questioning Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision not to purchase anyone with the Ronaldo money that is ‘suppose to be’ available. However, I think that Fergie put faith in a number of players at the start of the season who have either been below par or injured for a considerable amount of time. Some fans expectations are too high and the fact that no team has ever won four League Championships on the bounce is a statement to what a monumental task it actually is. I still believe United have a great chance to achieve this feat, regardless of the latest set back. We’ve had ‘surprise’ defeats in the past when on the road to glory – losing 3-1 to Southampton in 1996, 1-0 to Oldham in 1993 and 2-1 to Portsmouth in 2007. All of course are met with disappointment and a reassessment of the bigger picture, but in all of those three seasons – we went onto lift the Championship. So, although extremely below par yesterday – the title race is far from over. Chelsea are in the driving seat at the moment and we’ll see how they do in their run in (away to Liverpool, away to Blackburn – who have only lost two at home – away to Spurs and away to United being key).

On a more fond statistical note – spare a thought for West Ham United – who will on the receiving end of a United backlash, if history is anything to go by. The game after the 1-0 defeat in 2005 saw quite possibly one of the greatest goals at Old Trafford in the 2-1 victory over Newcastle United. Wayne Rooney’s superb volley towards the Stretford End had me speechless, it was a genius strike. Even better was in 1995 when after the Amokachi header, Ipswich Town traveled to Manchester for a record 9-0 hammering. So i’m hoping for a high scoring victory with a wonder Rooney goal, reckon we’ll get it?

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