MANCHESTER UNITED VS EVERTON
After two League draws in succession United returned to Old Trafford to face an inform Everton, looking to get back to winning ways. On a personal note this was a big game for David Moyes; his first fixture against the team he managed for ten years since his switch to Old Trafford in the summer.
In: Rafael, Giggs and Fellaini.
Out: Cleverley, Evans and Jones.
- This was a lackluster performance. United started poorly, their play was slow and deliberate with little effective movement off the ball. Everton started brightly, pressing United and denying space and time.
- The middle section of the game was fairly equal. Both sides had chances although on balance Everton probably shaded the contest. They always seemed to have more purpose to their play.
- United seemed to fade towards the end of the match. Had they run out of ideas? Everton seemed to sense this, stepped it up and got the goal. United couldn’t respond.
United started this game in a 4-2-3-1 shape with Fellaini and Giggs in central midfield behind a three of Valencia to the right, Kagawa in the central position and Welbeck to the left. Rooney played as the main forward. Everton started in a similar shape with Barry and McCarthy anchoring their midfield. Lukaku was Everton’s lone front man ahead of a three and he worked tirelessly all night as an almost Drogbaesque centre forward.
After a scrappy first few minutes a pattern emerged which persisted for the twenty minutes. Essentially Everton pressed United assiduously. Lukaku never allowed United defenders to settle in possession and in this he was ably assisted by their advanced midfield three of Deulofeu, Osman and Naismith. These players often assisted by one of Barry or MaCarthy were very successful in stifling United, preventing them from moving the ball out from the back through the midfield.
United did not help themselves. They started the game very slowly. Their passing was slow, unimaginative and deliberate. The telegraphed passes invited the press and as a consequence Everton gained the upper hand, often won the ball in high areas and had a number of periods of good pressure. Perhaps they were unfortunate that by the half hour mark this had come to nothing in terms of goals, but they clearly had the upper hand. Whenever Everton got the ball they passed the ball quicker than United. They looked brighter, more energetic and their movement off the ball was better being more adventurous. United’s passing tended to play it safe and as a consequence didn’t ask enough questions of the opposition. Everton seemed to have a sense of purpose, United did not.
To date this season we have been critical of Fellaini so it is only fair that we point out here that in this first twenty minutes he played really well. This was certainly his best performance to date for United. Fellaini was sitting deeper than Giggs in the centre acting as the defensive midfield player. Giggs was more advanced and more mobile. The difference here was perhaps that Fellaini was being asked to fulfil a different role in the side. Sitting in front of the back four he worked tirelessly to screen the defence, intercept and get a tackle in to knock the ball away breaking up countless Everton moves. It’s not exaggerating to say that in the first half hour Fellaini was critical in preventing Everton overrunning United.
So what changed? Rooney started to drop deeper in an attempt to see more of the ball and he was effective in troubling not only McCarthy and Barry but also by dropping very deep helping Giggs and Fellaini to compete more when Everton had the ball and to link providing an outlet when United did win possession.
United’s first decent chance came in the 24th minute and it came as a consequence of Rooney dropping deep. Rooney picked up the ball in the inside right channel, fed the ball to Valencia on the overlap. He crossed and Giggs was unlucky with a glancing header which when just past the left hand post. This goal lifted United and from this point on the game became a bit more even. United were tending to press down the right via Valencia. He combined well with Rooney and occasionally with Rafael, although the Brazilian was having a poor game on his return from injury. The main problem was that although Valencia did cause problems, frequently finding himself in good positions the quality of his delivery was poor.
The half ended scoreless.
At half time David Moyes made a positional switch. Kagawa was moved to the left swapping with Welbeck who moved inside. Rooney dropped deeper to play slightly behind Welbeck. Kagawa had had a quiet first half and it was later revealed that he was ill immediately after the match so perhaps he was not 100%. This change though may have been as a consequence of the fairly lopsided threat from United in the last fifteen minutes of the first half. Welbeck is not a natural wide player, although this isn’t Kagawa’s best position either. This move did create a more balanced feel to United’s play although with Kagawa’s natural tendency to tuck inside United’s play was still relatively right sided. A feature of the whole game was that United were often too narrow in attack.
The other noticeable change at the start of the second half was that United tried harder to win the ball back early. United had been too passive in this respect in the first half, but know they tended to chase a number of balls that they could not win. Everton then, played around United players who had overcommitted. Fellaini particularly was caught out a couple of times in this way and this resulted in a number of good opportunities for Everton when he was caught out of position.
On 58 minutes Moyes made his first substitution. Kagawa and Rafael were removed to be replaced by Januzaj and Nani. Januzaj went to the right replacing Valencia who dropped back to right back. Nani replacing Kagawa on the left. The overall shape remained unchanged. United now looked much more balanced and Januzaj particularly posed an increased threat on the right. He regularly ran at the Everton defence and with Valencia providing back up from deep for a while it appeared as this might result in a goal. It didn’t because United’s generally play had already begun to lapse back into a pattern seen at the start of the game.
A big worry from this game was United’s seeming inability to step things up and take the game by the scruff of the neck. United appeared unable to impose themselves and in fact faded as the game went on. When Everton gained possession United appeared cautiously content to drop back into two banks f four and wait for Everton to lose possession. Everton on the other hand continued to press and did not allow United time on the ball. The overriding impression was that Everton were working far harder.
On 80 minutes Hernandez replaced Welbeck who had earlier missed an open goal when it seemed harder to miss than score.
Then on 84 minutes Everton scored through Bryan Oviedo who hit a left footed shot from a difficult angle on the left of the goal. Valencia had failed to pick up the Everton full back as he had made a forward run. This had been coming as since the Hernandez substitution Everton had clearly been the team in the ascendency and looked the team more likely to snatch the win.
Everton deserved this win for although both teams had their chances and much of the game was fairly even, they were the team who generally seemed to have more purpose throughout.
United’s play was lackluster. They looked tired and bereft of attacking idea. The pattern of the team was unbalanced and with minimal creativity in central areas they tended to push the ball wide, slowly to the wide players. Their delivery was poor.
On the plus side Rooney worked hard but things didn’t really come off for him. Fellaini had probably his best game for United to date playing as a defensive midfielder. He still looks clumsy and gave away too many fouls, but particularly in the first half he kept United in the game for periods.