Manchester United 1 – 0 Everton Talking Points

Chicharito celebrates scoring

AUTHOR: – Doron

For two hours at least, United have opened up a 9 point gap at the top of the Premier League and now know for certain that wins in the next two league games will seal a record breaking 19th title. Everton however came to Old Trafford determined to make the afternoon as uncomfortable as possible and made United wait until the 84th minute to score. Here we discuss the Talking Points of the game and encourage both United and Everton fans to leave their thoughts on a nerve-shredding game.

Talking Points

Using the squad

Sir Alex boldly chose this came to rest some players and give some much needed game time to others. This was most evident in defence as three of the four who started at Newcastle midweek were rotated out – most notably the captain Vidic was rested for the first time in the league this season. In came Rio Ferdinand for his first league start since the 1st February whilst Jonny Evans made his 10th league appearance and Fabio his 8th (only his second start of this campaign though).

Having started 11 of the last 13 games in all competitions, Michael Carrick was given a rare and well earned break as he was left on the substitute’s bench. He was replaced by Gibson, who was making only his 11th appearance in the league this season. Anderson kept his place from the Newcastle game whilst out wide, Sir Alex went attack-minded with both Nani and Valencia.

Given many fans would prioritise the league over European success, it was a bold call from Fergie in trying to balance both competitions and give them equal importance. Personally, I’m not sure I’d have been as brave as him.

Anderson excels next to consistent Gibson

It’s been a tough year for Anderson. Every time he’s had a run of games a new injury has cropped up. His start at Newcastle on Tuesday was his first since mid-February and despite a relatively poor performance he was picked again today, this time alongside Darron Gibson.

It seemed like the instructions to the pair were clear – both to sit deep and win the ball, but Gibson had to get the ball wide as soon as possible, whereas for Anderson he had to carry the ball forward and pick out the strikers. The combination of the two different styles worked for United:

Click on images to enlarge

Anderson and Gibson passing

Anderson’s adventurous passing was accurate today. He released Chicharito and the wingers on numerous times. Importantly there was a calmness and confidence about his play – nothing was rushed. The runs he made from deep with the ball broke the Everton midfield lines showing some dynamism in the midfield that often this season has been missed. With the exception of Fletcher – he’s the only midfielder in the first team who offers that at the moment.

Gibson may not be a world-beater but he was neat and tidy today. He never tried anything adventurous and yes he can well be criticised for that but the short sharp passing coupled with positional discipline complimented Anderson’s style today and allowed him to roam:

Anderson and Gibson heatmap

As the heatmap above shows, Anderson made 36% of his passes in the final third of the Everton half. Meanwhile, Gibson made 59% of his passes from the centre of the pitch and 46% from within the United half. This is reminiscent of the job Carrick was doing at the end of 2010 when his partnership with Anderson flourished as he held a disciplined deeper role giving Anderson the option to roam forward.

It may not have been the central midfield pairing that everyone wanted or expected but it was effective today. The role of Gibson allowed Anderson to flourish, and there’s little doubt he was the key man in the middle.

Defenders on show and persistence with crossing

United were forced to wait until the 84th minute for a breakthrough. Much of that frustration can be put down to solid and very organised defending by Everton. As United piled forward and put pressure on Everton they looked for inspiration from their wingers. United’s flair has always come from out wide and good crossers are a necessity. However if the defenders United are up against are good, it doesn’t matter how good your crosses are:

Distin and Jagielka clearances

United put in 35 crosses today yet only 3 reached a target – Distin and Jagielka were excellent all game and busy. Between them they made 32 clearances – it’s just disappointing for Everton that on the rare occasion Distin wasn’t tight to Chicharito, he was able to score. Up to the goal, United had already sent in 34 crosses, persistence in wing-play paid off though as Valencia sent one of the few crosses Everton didn’t defend well and Chicharito was able to head the winner – his 19th goal of the season.

There were good defenders on both sides. The much maligned Evans was assured and won an impressive 83% of his aerial battles – a good figure considering the introductions of Cahill and Anichebe at half time. Evans made more tackles than any of the other 3 centre backs on the pitch too – the 8 he made is nearly double Rio’s total. He seemed assured in bringing the ball our of defence and with that in mind, a pass completion rate of 89% is excellent for a centre back who made 44 passes.

The other defender I’d like to single out is Fabio. Making only his second league start of the season he showed the attacking spirit one would expect from a Brazilian fullback – playing 50% of his game in the Everton half. However he also showed how adept he is defensively:

Fabio tackles and clearances

Fabio’s 10 tackles saw him make more than any other defender on the pitch. Importantly his 5 clearances were made in a key area of the pitch – four of them inside United’s own penalty area. It just goes to show that despite being associated with exciting attacking play, he is also able to defend very ably.

Match Conclusion

Sir Alex Ferguson chose to rotate his squad for this game as he had half an eye on Schalke on Tuesday. Evans, Fabio, Ferdinand, Gibson and Valencia all came in after the 0-0 draw at Newcastle midweek.

United went into the game having not scored in over 3 hours of football but started with purpose and energy. However Phil Jagielka was leading Everton’s defence well and they kept United at bay relatively well until about 20 minutes in. In quick succession Nani, and twice Chicharito had shots well saved by Howard. Rooney and Anderson were by this point starting to pull the strings – both eager to get on the ball and shift it wide. As the half came to an end Valencia and then Rooney got in good positions behind the defence on the right but neither of their crosses lead to a shot on goal – Valencia’s ended up at the feet of Nani whose shot was unfortunately blocked by Chicharito.

Everton changed their tactics at half time. On came Cahill and Anichebe as they tried to out-muscle United in the air. They started the half well too – Anichebe felt he should have had a penalty as he went down from a challenge from Rio Ferdinand but the ball had long since gone and arguably he went down very easily. With United struggling to open Everton up, Ferguson brought on Evra for O’Shea and Owen for Nani with Rooney asked to play on the left. The end of Everton’s pressure was signalled when van der Sar produced a wonderful finger-tip save from Rodwell’s deflected shot. From then on it was purely about United pressure.

Wave after wave of attack pummelled the Everton defence but they stood firm. Distin nearly sliced the ball into his own net but was relieved to see it hit the post whilst Howard saved well from Rooney’s free kick and then again from Chicharito’s goal-bound header. Giggs came on for Gibson late on as the game moved into the last 10 minutes and it felt like ‘one of those afternoons’. However, with just 6 minutes remaining, another Valencia cross looped up high, for once Distin had lost Chicharito and he headed the ball down into the goal from just yards out. United comfortably saw out the final minutes of the game to record a victory that sees them go top by 9 points for now.

United’s next game is away to Schalke in the semi finals of the Champions on Tuesday 26th April.

AUTHOR: – Doron

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12 Responses to “Manchester United 1 – 0 Everton Talking Points”

  1. ali says:

    I’ve never seen you criticising a united player, and the fact that you always see the glass half full is quite annoying; how can you say gibson is consistent? he is not good enough for the squad and the only reason you’re defending him is that you think you always have to support every single player we have, some of them are NOT good enough and you need to face the truth. Gibson would be a decent signing for a fulham type of teams. It is really annoying that this guy gets playing time instead of players with real ability like pogba and tunicliffe; and he doesnt even bring anything to the team; passing it backwards and sideways repeatedly isn’t good enough!!!

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  2. @ali – I’m judging Gibson on how he played today in this game. The fact is, fans dislike him, before he even played today most fans had already made up their mind that he’d had a bad game. The reality was that he did nothing wrong today. Yes he did nothing exceptional but he was fine. The point about Gibson today which your disliking of him has overlooked, is that what he did complemented Anderson well. I compare it to Carrick at the end of 2010 – it’s a role that doesn’t win you much praise as it doesn’t require moments of flair or over-elaborate passing. It requires you to get the ball and accurately pass it on whilst holding a tactical position – something Gibson did well. The fact is, if you read my previews, I almost never suggest Gibson should start which should hint at what I think of him. But there is no point in aimlessly criticising a player for no reason especially when he did nothing wrong today.

    As for Pogba and Tunnicliffe – yes they are talented but they’re too young and far from ready for the first team. I suggest you have a read of this piece by another one of the writers on this blog – it calls for patience with our young talents – http://www.stretford-end.com/blog/2011/04/the-merging-of-uniteds-midfield-present-and-future/ .

    Meanwhile – I’d rather a player passed accurately backwards and sideways than aimlessly forwards with no accuracy – you need only to click on the link in the piece that will take you to this article – http://www.stretford-end.com/blog/2011/01/carricks-deeper-role-is-key-to-midfield-success/ – to understand why.

    Appreciate your comments though – just Gibson like every player has to be judged on this game. The ‘talking points’ pieces have been critical of players and the manager before eg: http://www.stretford-end.com/blog/2011/03/liverpool-3-1-manchester-united-talking-points/ and http://www.stretford-end.com/blog/2011/02/wolverhampton-wanderers-2-1-manchester-united-talking-points/

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  3. ali says:

    sorry but i did not see him make many tackles, i appreciate what carrick has done recently with wining the ball back and currently hes crucial to the team. Anderson, rooney and fabio made more and better interceptions which tells me that he didnt even do his job properly, gibson was non existent today with a couple of dreadful shots hence his substitution in the second half which helped the game to change completely, and thats just my opinion. i always say that you should give players the chance to perform and gibson has had far too many of them which makes me angry. by the way i love the blog, its just that sometimes its seems to me the writers become too defensive of some players who in my opinion get blamed for a reason, you just had to listen to the fans when gibson was coming off which tells its own story.

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  4. @ali – I didn’t include his tackles chalkboard but clearly it will surprise you to know that of our midfielders, he made the most tackles and the most successful tackles! Like I explained, the role he played today isn’t about “showing yourself” hence you feel he was non-existent. It’s about doing a role. Yes Carrick could perform it better but for now Gibson is part of a squad and he was fine today. His substitution was actually a tactical move – because Giggs is better than him in the final third.

    I’ll always try to find the positives in our own players – I don’t like it when fans turn on their own. Yes, Gibson isn’t a particularly good footballer. Yes, he (as much for his own sake) should leave Man United but when he plays and does nothing wrong I won’t aimlessly criticise him. Had he played badly today I’d have been critical. This was a piece about today’s game, not previous appearances and not about whether he’s good enough for United.

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  5. minimal says:

    difficult to understand why premier league is proritised against champions league, i think its the biggest prize in club football is obviously champions league. you don’t get many of those

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  6. Ian says:

    @ minimal: I don’t really see that a club of United’s stature has to pick one over the other anyway, but if forced to I’d pick the league. Get your bread and butter sorted. Clubs who prioritise Europe tend to end up with an unhealthy obsession (Real Madrid) or gambling that it’ll make up for slacker league form (Liverpool.)

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  7. Mancunian Red says:

    Great result today. Spoiled before I got there from something I heard. I got to the ground a couple of mins after the start. I always stand and chat to the people behind me. But apparently a bloke who doesn’t normally go vented off at the bloke on my row saying sit the fuck down I don’t want to stare at the back of your ugly head all game. It didn’t effect me as I still did what I normally do all game, but it pissed me off its a football game and people, sing, swear stand and get emotional.

    Sorry about the rant. But it is called Stretty Rant and I’m in the Stretford End :)

    Back to the poiint I thought Anderson and Rooney were superb , Nani was greedy and selfish and did my head in. I think it demonstrated why we need as goal scoring midfield player as Everton came for a draw and just defended and I often believe the best way to break defences like that are from outside the box.

    I don’t think Gibbo is a United player, VDS showed what a great keeper he is nothing to do most of the time but kept his concentration and made a brilliant save.

    I do think the little peas areal ability is as good as I’ve seen only the Lawman really compares.

    For me the prem is always the priority, the true test and the only one I really care about passionately. TBH the group stage of the CL I hate with such passion, it ruined a great competition introducing that.

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  8. minimal says:

    @ian all iam saying is champions league is bigger prize than premier league. premier league its natural for us to expect to win it.

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  9. moyesboyz says:

    A nosey Evertonian here just scanning the debris of yet another Old Trafford disater away day. Utd deserved to win – no quibbles here…if we had held out to the end it would have been down to a great defensive display by us (Jags was the best player on the pitch – bar none) but ultimately you are going to pay the price if you keep trying to defend for 90 minutes and really that was all we achieved. You lot really are spoiled…. Gibson may not be your strongest link in the chain but when the team keep on winning why complain?. In essence it was a half decent performance from a makeshift UTD side and you lot keep on rolling along. We on the other hand pick up any breadcrumbs of comfort from the fact we didn’t get hammered. Says it all really. good luck to you lot anyway..hope you win the league to shadow out that other lot and Good luck in Europe…but I reckon it will be Barcelona waiting for you and they are a smidge better than Everton at the minute so watch out !!!

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  10. Angga, Indonesia says:

    Hi Doron, I always interested to read the talking points at SE.com, especially when you show passing maps or heatmaps. Where could you get such data anyway? is it available online?

    Thanks

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  11. @Angga

    Thanks you. Chalkboards/heatmaps etc for Premier League games are available from The Guardian at – http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/chalkboards/create

    Hope that helps

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  12. Angga, Indonesia says:

    Brilliant! i always thought such analysis are exclusive.
    This kind of thing is always useful and come in handy when we want to know the match facts based on this data rather than opinion only.

    Great use of the charts as well mate, hope the best for tonight match!

    Greetings from Indonesia,
    (yes another asian country with a lot of United fans :) )

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  13. […] he’s always had. His selection is often coupled with a restricted role, like against Everton recently, however tonight he was given more of an important role in United’s midfield. With Scholes […]

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