Well this was a part of the script that Manchester United manager David Moyes could have done without.
Losing to your previous club; outfoxed by your successor; outlasted by those (mostly) you know so well and shut out by familiar faces-turned-foes. All this at Old Trafford. It may have been just another game to win and get the three points but make no mistake; inwardly Moyes would have been burning with unexpressed desire to win this one.
It’s a certain thing in football that a player or manager always wants to do well against his former employers. More than just do well, they will want to win and perform to distinction even where the goal celebrations are often muted by the respect of a formerly adoring crowd.
It is an ingrained instinct in an athlete in any sport; particularly those of the team variety and all part of a natural desire within, to show progression, elevate status and ultimately feed the ego inside that pines for increased recognition.
For Moyes, though this defeat has brought to bear all these salient facts in a particularly damaging way.
The game started at the sort of breakneck speed which typifies the English Premiership with Everton settling in much quicker as Romelu Lukaku started and ended the match as a pest that could not be swatted away.
Time and again, the on-loan Belgian made life utterly uncomfortable for United skipper Nemanja Vidic and it was his dogged determination that ultimately set up Brian Oviedo for the 83rd minute winner.
Both teams had a go at each other without being able to find the breakthrough in the first half but United dominated the latter part of the first half as well as the first 20 or so minutes of the second half and will probably wonder what may have been had efforts from Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck not rebounded off the woodwork.
But the whole match changed on an inexplicable decision by Moyes to take off Shinji Kagawa for Adnan Januzaj just on the stroke of the hour. For all Everton’s pressing and counter-attacking play via Kevin Mirallas and Lukaku, United had actually bossed the game with the passing triangles created by the Japanese playmaker as well as his darting runs through and from the centre that kept United on top and pegged the Blues in their own half.
His movement created the passes and space which Rooney, Welbeck and Valencia had thrived on, albeit without getting the breakthrough.
Though Januzaj did marginally well when coming on, the penetrative thrust through the middle was gone and Rooney visibly tired off as he came back deeper and deeper in search of the ball.
In adding the Belgian winger plus Nani, who replaced a tiring Rafael, Moyes had set out his stall to use the flanks as the source of goals but this suited Everton fine and Roberto Martinez was able to take off young Ross Barkley and apply the pressure on a midfield comprising 40 year-old Ryan Giggs and the not-so-quick Marouane Fellaini.
Thus the substitutions actually killed United’s attacking drive and handed the initiative back to Everton after a period of real pressure for United. Considering the pace of the game, this was not a 90 minute game for Giggs, faithful servant as he may be.
United could have done with an injection of energy in the middle of the park against the harrying and pressing game Everton applied and epitomised through James McCarthy’s man of the match performance.
One wonders what Anderson or Tom Cleverly would have brought to the middle during those last 25 minutes had they replaced the Welshman. European games are different in the pace and style and Giggs’ performance against Bayer Leverkusen must be analysed in this context. Without Phil Jones who was serving an automatic ban, United’s midfield problems were laid bare for all to see.
Upfront the lack of a cutting edge underlined Robin van Persie’s absence starkly and the grim statistics show a very poor return in his absence, especially in the league games.
Moyes seems loathe to give Javier Hernandez consistent minutes on the pitch and though he came on in the final minutes, it is clear the Scot is wasting the Mexican goal-poacher and must give him more games, particularly during this hectic period.
Chicharito has managed double figures in each of United’s last two title-winning campaigns despite not being a regular starter.
As for Rooney, the continuous playing time over the last few games did catch up with him and by the end, he was at walking pace. His booking for a petulant foul also ensures he will forcibly get that rest as that took his tally of bookings to five. If as expected, Van Persie returns, it may be worth starting off with Chicharito alongside the Dutchman.
For Moyes, he will now feel the other side of managing Manchester United; the side that will make the hysterical headlines, dominate social media and have all the press hacks dissect his managerial acumen and potential.
For this was a game to kick-start a heady seven-game run that would and should take United nearer the top and keep in touch with their main rivals at the turn of the year.
It has however provided a false start and Moyes now has six steps to progress to the vicinity of the Champions League placing which in reality, is the absolutely minimum requirement for a proud club that feeds off the mantra of Glory, Glory United.
With all their title rivals (and Europa-like competition) winning, United are in real danger of a season filled with the grim realisation that they have been knocked off their perch barely six months after scaling the heights. For Moyes, the Newcastle game cannot come soon enough.
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