Everyone knows visiting Goodison Park would be a physical contest. Having lost Tim Cahill and Jack Rodwell, David Moyes is able to fend off the interests in Fellaini and Baines and fielded a very industrious midfield to support Jelavic. Sir Alex had limited choice to come up with a more defensive lineup. Carrick and Valencia were forced to join the defensive unit led by the returning captain Nemanja Vidic. Welbeck was dropped to left wing, with Rooney starting as a lone striker. Shinji Kagawa debuted as an attacking midfielder, a position he is most comfortable in.
Moyes addressed the weakness of Manchester United in the air and gave De Gea no room to breathe with waves of threatening deliveries, particularly from Baines. Fellaini excelled as the playmaker of the team. His footwork was as impressive as his header, which brought Everton the winning goal as well as chest control. Jagielka made several crucial tackles to dispossess Danny Welbeck. Hibbert and Baines neutralised threats from the flanks, and everyone bravely threw their bodies in front of the ball in the last 20 minutes.
It was De Gea’s show in the first half, but he was finally beaten by the height of Everton’s lineup. However, Sir Alex would be more worried about the attack, which they have heavily invested into. The movement was lacking in the final third. Nani often stalled the build-up, while Rooney was completely out-of-form, even looked relatively lazy comparing to the Rooney at his best. Kagawa was the most active attacker for the Red Devils, who showed promising football intelligence to link up plays with clever runs, direct passes and impressive composure. However, balls were not distributed quick enough to distract the Toffee’s defence. Neither Kagawa nor Van Persie could single-handedly rescue Manchester United. The inconsistent Nani will likely lose his starting place next week, while Cleverley’s performance in the middle of the park was well above average.
Man of the Match: He scored the decisive goal, but more importantly he showed how invaluable he is to Everton. He embraced under the freedom Moyes granted him. Not only could he hold up balls with his technique physical strength, but also created chances with his silky passes and powerful runs. More importantly, he did not slack in defence, having executed Moyes’ game plan perfectly. Fellaini deserved a perfect ten for his performance last night.
Flop of the Match: A very obvious contrast to Fellaini’s performance, Rooney could not operate under the limited space given by his former team’s defence. His passing was especially disappointing, and his concentration and aggression seemed absent in front of the jeering crowd. The early season symptom would not be an excuse for Rooney, who United rely heavily on to win back the title from their neighbours.
What if Rooney was taken off the match? Manchester United fans will be screaming when they read this line, but the truth is managers are ought to field their fittest sides. It is not once we witness managers not daring to take off their superstars when losing, and no one would be even aware of this argument if Rooney scored an equaliser. However, Van Persie came off the bench and combined with Kagawa once or twice that nearly created a goal. One would wonder how the match would have evolved if Van Persie was assigned the striker role in lieu of Rooney earlier. Rewind back to 2002 when France prematurely exited the World Cup qualification stage even though a godlike – but unfit – Zidane was present. 10 years later tonight at Goodison Park it showed once again keeping an quality but unfit player on the field is nothing more than a gamble.