Everton 1-0 Manchester United: large afro bullies depleted defence

Author: Doron

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United travelled the short distance to Merseyside to take on Everton in the final game of the opening round of Premier League fixtures. Shinji Kagawa made his debut but Van Persie was only deemed fit enough for the bench. United had to start with Carrick in defence as Rio Ferdinand became the fourth centre back to miss out through injury. Everton, in front of their home fans played Fellaini up high as the supporting act for Jelavic.

Moyes’ tactics work like a dream

I was most certainly doing Everton a disservice when I saw the line-ups. It read Gibson-Neville in the centre and my immediate reaction was one of delight as it dawned on me that I associate them with immobility and a lack of pace, not to mention that they’re former Reds. Moyes and Everton had other ideas though. Fellaini played behind Jelavic with license to drop deep and become a second striker. When in possession, Everton simply bypassed Neville and Gibson, with the high ball (long ball wouldn’t necessarily be accurate) to Fellaini working perfectly pretty much every time.

The true cleverness of how Everton played though is found in what they did when they weren’t in possession. Up until they scored, Everton pressed high. United had selected passers who whilst happy being pressurised, would rather some space. Even deep in the United half, Everton, starting with Jelavic, pushed right up onto United forcing a long ball to be played and possession generally retained.

Having scored, Everton could afford to be a bit more defensive. With the bigger team and men behind the ball, they knew that they could repel crosses and make openings hard to come by. In the end, it was more comfortable than Everton could have predicted it might have been. The high pressing coupled with a fast tempo stifled United – we had no answer to it.

United’s bright sparks

There were just two players who I’d single out for praise from a United point of view. Firstly, the goalkeeper, David de Gea. Selected over Lindegaard, he single-handedly kept United in the game during the first half. Excellent saves were made from angles, from close range, from free kicks, and from off his line. As with much of 2012, de Gea excelled and came to the fore when those in front of him were being outplayed. Even his calmness and kicking off both feet, under pressure was impressive. He could do little about the goal, nor about the Osman shot that rattled the bar – he certainly played a big part though in ensuring that United’s goal difference after the first game of the season was no worse than -1.

The other player worthy of being mentioned in this section is Shinji Kagawa. Deployed in front of Cleverley and Scholes he was a menace. His movement coupled with an outstanding footballing brain (ability to know where the defenders were and where his team-mates were moving) lead to many of United’s best moves. His golden moments involved passes slipped through to Welbeck, shimmies away from defenders, and the awareness to lay the ball off to Cleverley just yards out rather than trying to spin and shoot. Whilst not quite always on the same wavelength as those around him, it’s clear that with more playing time, he’s going to be a star.

The big bully with the afro

Fellaini’s performance at Old Trafford earlier this season was good and received plenty of acclaim, but what he produced this evening fell into the ‘world class’ category. His job was made somewhat easier as Gibson and Neville took a lot of the defensive burden off him. The aim for the evening was simple: let Neville and Gibson win the ball back in order for a high ball to be played towards Fellaini. It’s not so much that he’s big and wins most headers, but his touch for such a large guy was outstanding. Often, he’d manoeuvre his body in such a way so that he’d bought enough space to bring the ball down. Even with the ball at his feet, he showed that he’s intelligent and capable of linking play as well as being direct.

United were quite simply bullied by Fellaini and unable to find an answer to stop him. His goal, a bullet of a header was more than deserved and terribly inevitable. Carrick, who’s not small, was marking him and stood no chance of getting close. A truly awesome performance from a player that will be close to impossible to stop should he and those around him perform to those high standards again.

The pain of losing players

United had to go into the game with just one fit centre back from the first team. Vidic, on his return from a long lay-off did alright but tired towards the end. He was partnered by Carrick – a player capable of playing a defensive role but unsurprisingly would be caught out positionally and physically a few times. Interestingly, Valencia was preferred to Rafael – the Brazilian hasn’t been back long from the Olympics and United may have wanted a bit more power at the back given the loss of Ferdinand.

Carrick was chosen to play centre back over Scott Wootton – a sensible decision. Scott did well on tour but throwing him into a game like this would have been too much for a player who’s unlikely to have a long-term future at the club. The downside was that United lost Carrick, the cog and engine of the team last season, from the middle of the pitch. Whilst not a physical player, Carrick’s size may have helped against Fellaini. Cleverley actually had a very solid game but Scholes was somewhat erratic and needlessly rash both with and without possession. Carrick’s consistency was certainly missed.

The lack of a physical presence in the middle brings me back to something I brought up 18 months ago. Whilst the finer details may now be inaccurate, the sentiment remains the same, I would love to see United sign a physical midfielder. With Fletcher’s return not guaranteed, it’s something United lack in the middle. Too many of the central midfielders excel in the same areas and whilst small, possession-based central midfielders may always flourish abroad, the Premier League requires a sense of physical competitiveness. Tonight was a good example of why United could benefit from more variation in the middle. Whilst I’m incredibly excited by the Van Persie signing, I can’t help but wonder if that money could have been more wisely spent – certainly it’s galling to see City linked with de Rossi even when they have Yaya Toure.

Hang your head in shame

United’s performance on the whole wasn’t near as bad as will be made out. Some players though played below a standard that fans have come to deem acceptable. If I was being really harsh, I’d suggest Evra was one of them. He was ok defensively but wasteful when attacking with too many passes inexplicably played straight to opponents. He, like many players seemed at times reluctant to cross and then infuriated as balls that were crossed in were poor.

The main culprits though were Nani and Rooney. As we’ve come to know, Nani is either unplayable or appalling. Tonight he was the latter – too many times he tried to do things on his own and be too clever. For a player who’s technically so skilful, it’s remarkable how often he messes up the simple things. No prizes for guessing though that his most frustrating trait was his inability to beat a first man with a cross, from open play or set play. Not a good night for him but he’ll win us plenty of games this season.

The signing of Van Persie adds more competition up front. Whilst Rooney should hopefully be paired with him a lot, it also means there’s no excuse for Wayne to perform badly given that he can now so easily be replaced. Tonight’s performance by him was one of his worst for the club. He picked up good positions but he appeared lethargic, slow and uninterested. There were times when he appeared to link up well with Kagawa but almost every move broke down with Rooney losing possession. For whatever reason, he looked terribly unfit and the fight that was raging inside him as an angry young man a few years ago seems to have completely disappeared. How he wasn’t subbed off is a complete mystery. He’ll no longer be able to hide though and with Van Persie, he’ll hopefully not be undroppable.

Final thoughts

Plenty of credit must go to Everton’s defenders. Hibbert’s somewhat unfancied as a player but was excellent against Nani, Young and Evra – blocking crosses and making smart tackles. The star for them though was Jagielka – a goal-line clearance and a couple of fabulous last man tackles helped earn his team the points as much as Fellaini’s brilliance.

I’ve already briefly touched upon the fact that Cleverley was solid but want to emphasise it. He was buzzing around the pitch always wanting the ball to try and get it forward. Even when United didn’t have possession, he was back and trying to be as physical as possible. A tough night for him but he certainly didn’t let anyone down and will hopefully retain his place next weekend.

Robin Van Persie came on to make his debut but didn’t see enough of the ball to impress. His corners were certainly better than Nani’s but he seemed to be lost in amongst the sea of blue Everton shirts. There was no hint as to whether he’s struck up any kind of partnership with Rooney yet – personally, I’d like to see him with Welbeck as I think they’d compliment each others styles nicely.


Everton were good value for their win. Whilst United tried to play the better football, only one side created the better chances – possession is valuable but only worth having if it’s used well. United were certainly not as bad as will be made out though; a few individuals aside, there were some encouraging passages of play as a unit but more often than not, Everton simply had too many men behind the ball.

A disappointing result but one that shouldn’t be read too much into. United will not often face a Fellaini & co style set-up and game one of a long season will rarely define the 37 games that follow. There are things to work on but with some defenders back and more composure/better decision making and crossing in the final third, United will hopefully be back to normal against Fulham this weekend. As for Everton, an impressive start but can they replicate that every week as opposed to just in the big games?

25 Comments on Everton 1-0 Manchester United: large afro bullies depleted defence

  1. Nice article Doron, I think in the long term Kagawa might play from the left thus interchanging regularly with Rooney behind RVP. Valencia and Rafael on the right. The team will come good no doubt about that.

  2. Nice article, fair and unbiased. United will come good and with RVP upfront with Rooney will have one of the best strikeforces in the Prem. First game jitters against a strong physical side. Remember almost the same Everton side beat City, Chelsea, Spurs and Newcastle at Goodison in the last few months of the season. Stay calm, everything will be ok.

  3. Excellent points, wholeheartedly agree with everything you mentioned. I was impressed with Kagawa and Cleverley. Hoping for big seasons from both of them, as well as Van Persie. Hopefully next summer, we can acquire a true ball winner, just not sure who we should go for. Someone like Hargreaves (when he wasn’t injured) would be ideal!

  4. Doron, I would have thought a 4-2-3-1 system is order over the longer term given the players we have. What’s your thoughts on SAF’s reluctance to embrace this change?

  5. Disappointing to only have one 3/4 fit centre-half ready for the beginning of the season. What would have happened tonight if Vidic got injured? The return of Berba to CB? (albeit probably very watcheable!).
    How frustrating though,(call it bad luck) that four of our five regulars at the back are currently injured, while only Phil Jones had footballing obligations this summer (0mins at the Euros).

    Lots of positives tonight though, mainly with Kag & Clevs, and agree with Doron that it was certainly not a ‘hang your head’ game. A full strength defence and less congested OT – Roll on Fulham!

  6. i think SAF is sick why must you play rooney for 90mins when right from start he was rubbish… bringing van P on was unnecessary when the problem lies in th mid-field Paul and cleverly are too small to handle the Belgium player why wait till 84mins to address the issue… as an experienced manager he should know better… the two mid-fid player plays alike u need Anderson in @ around 60mins to disturb maroune and charge the ball forward remove rooney instead of wellbeck or withdraw him back…… dis manager is old and out of clue…. can someone pls get me PEP G, or Jose M

  7. Solid analysis, Doron. Would have preferred to see Vidic try to pick up Fellaini at set-pieces. Carrick has height but he’s far too passive

  8. For what its worth, in my opinion I really don’t get the cleverley hype. Decent player don’t get me wrong but he’s deffo not the answer to our midfield problems that’s for sure! He doesn’t do much, well anything besides for pass, pass, pass….and move. That’s about it! He doesn’t dribble with the ball, can’t cross, can’t shoot and last night especially had absolutely no phuysical presence whatsoever! The lad is tniy and gets bullied in games…in a nig way and will continue to do be bullied this season and in the future! We need some type of a best of a midfielder and I’m sorry, you all prob think I’m a clown but TC23 is simply not the answer and nowhere near good enough.

    Valencia was absolutely wasted at right back last night! Completeley! Nani as much as I support the lad was wasteful in his attempts at crossing the ball and corners! He was at his frustrating best as Paddy crerand likes to put it! Simply not good enough! Come on fella sort it out!

    Scholes was solid. Kagawa was our best player by a long way! What a player he is and he’s going to be so important for us over the next couuple years! It makes me proud to have a player of that quality playing for MUFC!

    DDG was unreal! He made some incredible saves! Great shotstopper BUT he has no real physical presence! That’ll come soon I suppose.

    We missed Rio last night! Carrick also wasted at cb even though he did a decent job there. He was at fault for the gaol though but there wasn’t much he could have done! It was an unreal header BUT WHY WASNT VIDIC marking him??

    Patrice had another poor game to be fair. It just never worked in his favor and everything he tried to do just wouldn’t come off. It was incredoble! Everytime he tried to cross the ball when taking his man on, it’d end up a bloody goal kick! So fucking frustrating!

    Wazza looked slow as last night! Kept giving the ball away as well! Fix up mate! Not good enough. Again!

    All in all, I guess it was just one of those nights eh!

    Roll on Saturday! Come on lads!

  9. Excellent article, what concerned me was the thought right through the game, that we had learned nothing from last season. The idea of going in to each game knowing that any opponent could beat us is hard to swallow. As you have written many times the lack of a Roy Keane in the middle is so evident that I am starting to loose faith in the greatest manager of all time. Personally I strongly believe that we also need a new assistant manger to help guide ferguson. Nobody is perfect and we need another tactical brain on the bench

  10. “Whilst the finer details may now be inaccurate, the sentiment remains the same, I would love to see United sign a physical midfielder. “- this quote sums it up though i like tidy neat ball playing midfielders its time to get a hard man in there he certainly could help especially in the epl

  11. Great article – you are wasted as a Red!!

    Early days for us all but Utd have to work harder from the front – Felli would have dominated any centre half last night but there was not enough done to stop his supply. I have no doubt Utd will come good and rediscover a pattern and rhythm of play that will outwit most Premiership sides….dominating in Europe is more of a challenge however. In the meantime, allow us Blue Noses the chance to wallow in a well earned victory and let us see if that intensity can be sustained against the likes of Villa this weekend.

    Enjoy your season.

  12. Great article, really fair and unbiased.. I was bit surprised to to read SAF stating we just lumped it to Fellaini as I don’t think that was the case. As a blue, I always thought Man U carried the greater threat but after the goal, we dug our trench and it was always gonna be difficult for you. somebody made the point about last seasons wins against chelsea, Shitteh and Newcastle but you then add the confidence last we didn’t lose any of our star players and added pienaar, niaismith and miralas, then you have seen a much more confident everton. You quite rightly focus on your team but you have probably just played against the strongest everton side for quite a few years who were at the top of our game and things went right for us. Kagawa is going to be a star. Good luck for the season and hope you tonk the other side of liveool.

  13. Good article Doron. We just couldn’t find much space between their midfield and back four once they scored. Still an enthralling game to watch especially the last 15 minutes. Nani and MR ‘undroppable’ Evra need to work on ‘how to cross a ball’.

    Just a query but how well do United ever play on Monday nights? I have a bit of banter with my mate about how United play like shite on Monday nights! Obviously last year we didn’t play very well at all on any night. Can someone have a look at our Monday night results over the last 5 or 6 seasons to see if I am imagining it.

  14. As an Evertonian, i’ve got to say this is an excellent and balanced assessment of last night’s game.

    A couple of observations from me away from the actual football that was played. The fact that it was a night game helped us as the atmospheere is so much better than the 12.45pm kick offs we’ve been used to playing againts United. It’s no coincidence that the last Goodison night game we had against United was in 2005 when we again we won 1.0. It definitely does give the players a lift.

    Wayne Rooney was very quiet last night which coincided with the fact that he hardly got any stick at all for a change. I wonder whether he was expecting it or even needed it to help get him ‘up for it’ against us and perform. He always seemed to feed off the stick and last night it was virtually non-existence. Just a thought.

  15. Good article, great to see someone reviewing their team without going OTT about their teams performance or slagging off the opponents. I thought man utd were ok last night just unfortunately caught us on the one year we have decided to turn up for the first game. it was the type of game that leaves us blues drained as many times against lower teams we sit back invite them on and lose or drawer. we were immense as a defensive unit and looked fluid in attack. jags fellani and hibbert were the rocks and the rest played 7 out of 10 games. i felt that man utd were let down by evra nani and rooney none seemed to be able to exert any influence on the game and evras and nani s final balls were appalling at times. Man Utd will move on from this and once your back line is fit normal service will be resumed but i still feel that everton would have given any team you put out last as much troulble as there is a great surge of confidence running through goodison. all we have to do is remember that we have to perform to a similar level against AV and WBA then we’ll be fine. Best of luck with your season and smack the Redshite for us

  16. Well said Doron. Agree that Carrick filling in at CB had a negative effect on our CM. This, combined with Everton’s high pressing stifled us in the middle (high pressing definitely seems to be our achilles heel). Still though, we weaved some fantastic strings of passes together on the counter-attack.

    I know Jonas Gaever was complaining about Cleverly last night after the game and I failed to see why; Tom performed his duties well – linking the defence and Scholes with the attacking players up front and out wide. You really can’t ask much of him physically, and yet he outdid himself in that regard, hassling players like Osman and Pienaar well when they cut inside. I’d just really love him to be more confident when just outsde the box. Maybe he’s been mandated to pass rather than shoot or dribble, but I felt there were some occasions where a shot or a run at the defence would’ve worked.

    Actually, dribbling and running at the defence is something I noticed nobody seemed to want to do last night; we seemed intent on looking to thread a pass or play the ball out wide, or ultimately just trying not to lose possession. Normally that’s how we would set up our attacks, but with Everton parking two banks of four in front of the goals and having height superiority, having a run at them could have forced a penalty or a foul.

    I think Nani’s early yellow card might have stunted him a bit; in fact there were one or two moments later on where I was convinced he was going to get a second booking. Either way, there’s no excuse for his poor perfomance. He really needs to work on his crossing as well.

  17. Very nice article, man. And very composure and “to the point”.
    Everton played an excellent match yesterday, especially tactically. Moyes must take the credit for that. They never let space for our players to work outside penalty area in possession. In addition to that, Marouane Fellaini had an outstanding performance. It’s not just the physical advantage of this player, but also the way his teammates moved without the ball to welcome his headers and difficult controls of the ball after long balls.
    One point we have to highlight is our reaction on set-pieces.
    In conclusion, I want to stand on your phrase on Welbeck and RVP. Sure, I agree, but… Rooney, Kagawa and them are four attackers and two players (Nani and Young?) must stay outside the pitch. We loose our great flanks. I think that was the key for yesterday’s match. Nani had a very disappointing performance and there was no player on the opposite flank, all the players were in the middle. We also needed more touches from Rooney so the ball could pass through this blue sea as you described Everton’s defence.
    That was just a loose, we stay united!

  18. Well written post with great points.

    I have a general comment to the stature our club have gotten to. It’s not a knee-jerk comment but something we’ve seen over the past two seasons or so.

    We have the Glazers. That’s our biggest weakness, no doubt. Is that the reason why we still have to stick with the likes of Giggs and Scholes? I love them both to death, and they still gives great performances now and then, but are they good enough? Is Rio Ferdinand good enough? He’s certainly the player that can keep up with the level of the Premier League the best of the three mentioned, but my answer is heartbreakingly no.

    Why do we still keep them? They’re old in football terms, and for each game their average performance level sinks. We can’t rely on them, and we shouldn’t have to. We should offer them roles within the club and not be able to put them onto the pitch. They are a problem for us. Vidic is our main man in the back four, and he should be paired with Evans, Smalling or Jones. Instead Rio takes the starting place as long as he’s fit, and he gets paid probably as much as the three others combined. Get rid of Rio’s salary and bring in a talent. Papadopoulos or Hummels for instance (I have no idea whether or not they’re available, I’m just throwing it out there). That said, I love Rio, and I love his influence both in the dressing room and towards the youngsters. That’s why I want to keep him at the club, but not as a player.

    Carrick is our main man in midfield. He should not be teamed up with Scholes or Giggs. Cleverley and Anderson (I’ll get back to him) can play together with him, and we can bring in two new players. Who? A type like Carrick and maybe a talent like Ross Barkley. Scholes and Giggs can get a role as coaches. They’ve got brilliant football minds and have tonnes to share with players.

    And Anderson. Where do I even start. He’s taking the whole life at Manchester United too lightheartedly. When he was out injured last year or the year before, he was in Portugal partying and he was involved in a car crash. That just pisses me off. He looks unfit AT THE START OF THE SEASON. He should’ve been running for two months by now, but instead he looks out of shape and just not interested in doing his best. This applies 100% to Rooney as well, and 50% to Nani (the uninterested part). Fergie better tell them where they are, or I give up.

    The injuries. It’s not bad luck. It’s been going on for years now, so it can’t all be put down to bad luck. Do we buy players who’ve got feet made out of, I don’t know, paper? Do they go full fruit fly on each other at the training ground? I don’t know, but it’s not bad luck, and the club seems unable to cope with it. It pisses me off.

    Fergie should tell Anderson and Rooney that they won’t even be on the bench before they’ve gotten into shape. They should run for a month. Nonstop. Fergie should give Evra the hairdryer via a suppository daily. And get Valencia on the wing.

    We now have the team to tell players like Rooney and Nani to get lost until they’re performing good enough in training. Without Rooney and Kagawa we can play van persie in front of Kagawa, with Valencia and Young on the wings.

    On a positive note, there’s 38 games left, and both Nani and Rooney will win us games. Rooney and van Persie will give us insanely high leveled performances and the defense will be dominant. And we’ve got Kagawa and de Gea.

    Bottom line: Fergie have no reason to be soft anymore. He have a reason (Glazers) to keep Scholes, Giggs and Ferdinand in the team, but he have absolutely no reason to be soft anymore. Tell Rooney to get lost and not come back until he’s ready to play football, and that he won’t get any money until he do. Same goes for Anderson. Tell Nani that he won’t start a single game until his mind is in the right place. The only player who’s undropable is Evra.

  19. I thought there was some positives for United on Monday Everton away is always difficult especially away but it highlight the fact we need a centre midfielder so badly. Cleverly and Carrick or Scholes will struggle to win the ball back when we are playing against decent sides.

  20. Personally, I was just relieved Rafael didn’t play! Also…..prob the worst game I’ve seen Rooney play…..Nani poor……..no fluency to passing. We will improve though……if we get defenders fit…..otherwise it will be tough going!

  21. I Wouldn’t read too much into that, they probably:

    a). Don’t want to tempt fate.
    b). Don’t want to over pressure the player. Let him come back in his own time.

    Bigger question is has he been registered for games?

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