Out-fought away from home in the league and beaten with a goal from a set-piece: at least Robin Van Persie's Manchester United debut last night was not too much of a departure from all those years he spent at Arsenal.
After losing out in May in a title race that was decided on goal difference, it could hardly be denied that every point counts these days, even three that are dropped in August. For that alone, Sir Alex Ferguson will have reason to regret this defeat at Goodison Park, although there will be plenty more cause to look back in anger. Quite simply his team seemed to be caught cold on this warm night on Merseyside when they faced an Everton team who, from the very start, looked like the team most likely to command the game. In Marouane Fellaini, the match-winning goalscorer, Everton had the outstanding player of the game who left the pitch to a standing ovation when he was substituted in injury-time.
Unfortunately for United, Everton had the best five players on the pitch at the very least when you took into account the performances of Steven Pienaar, Leighton Baines and Sylvain Distin as well as Fellaini. For United, often so strong out of the traps in the seasons in which they win titles, this was a terrible way to start.
Van Persie came on for the last 20 minutes but he is still working his way into this United team and, other than taking charge of the corners, his effect was minimal. There were others in red shirts who looked decidedly off the pace, not least Wayne Rooney who scarcely troubled Tim Howard in the Everton goal.
United were simply not permitted to settle upon the ball for all but a brief period midway through the first half. Everton attacked them briskly and Fellaini, behind Nikola Jelavic, in the 4-4-1-1 formation was a problem for United that they never solved satisfactorily.
They had taken a pounding in the latter stages of the first half and it simply resumed when United took the pitch for the second half. Fellaini headed the ball down to Osman whose shot came off De Gea's bar and bounced down and out. Then, before the hour, the home side deservedly, finally, took the lead.
It was Carrick's job to mark Fellaini at corners although heaven knows why. Despite the danger posed by Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka, the latter of whom it was that Vidic picked up; the man of the moment was Fellaini. Then at last, Ferguson called for Van Persie, but the best chance that United created was a ragged opportunity for Tom Cleverley which was kicked off the line by Jagielka. That aside, it was a relatively comfortable victory for Everton.Reuse content