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They may be fabulous up front but United have no case for a defence


When you imagine how it must feel to beat Manchester United against the odds, your mind reels back a decade to when Bayer Leverkusen denied Sir Alex Ferguson a place in a European Cup final in Glasgow. "Now" announced Leverkusen's manager, Klaus Toppmoller, "is the time for wine and cigarettes."

David Moyes is not a wine and cigarettes kind of man and in the aftermath of a convincing 1-0 win at an electrified Goodison Park he was in a tetchy mood, complaining that all the pre-match coverage had focused on United and "the soap opera of Robin van Persie's signing".

Why, he asked, should it have been such a surprise that Everton won? They had finished last season strongly, they were at home and their record against the elite clubs is good – Moyes has taken more points from Manchester City than Ferguson in the past five seasons.

He did not add that while focusing on Manchester United's attack, few had predicted what Everton might do to an utterly threadbare defence so wrecked by injury that their back door was guarded by a right-winger and a central midfielder. Ferguson may be forced into the same arrangement against Fulham on Saturday. Neither Antonio Valencia nor Michael Carrick played badly but their presence will have acted as an encouragement to Everton's forwards.

Patrice Evra did play at Goodison but, at 31, the task of finding a long-term replacement at left-back is pressing. Alexander Buttner, who signed a five-year contract yesterday, does not yet appear to be it. He thought he might leave Vitesse Arnhem for the Premier League but imagined it would be to Southampton. "If you told me that, together with Robin van Persie, I would be playing for Manchester United, I would have driven you straight to the madhouse," he said.

While Buttner, 23, was brought up on a trailer camp, Shinji Kagawa learnt his football on the more manicured pitches of Kobe and the touches he displayed at Goodison were beautifully measured.

Kagawa's presence can only fuel the argument that this is the most potent array of firepower Ferguson has assembled since the treble season of 1998-99. That campaign, too, began uncertainly with a 2-2 draw at home to Leicester.

Then, Ferguson had consoled himself with a glass of wine and, in the absence of a cigarette, a quote from the Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, who competes with Frank Sinatra as his favourite American. "We didn't lose, we just ran out of time." United have nine months.