Football: Walker looks towards Rangers

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The Independent Online
Manchester United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Kanchelskis 41, Sharpe 88

Everton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Attendance: 43,803

THERE often appears to be a practised ease, an economy of effort about the aristocrats of the English game when they eke out victories while fatigued from European exertions. Liverpool could do it in their golden era; Manchester United appear able to do it in theirs.

Some would call it good fortune, as no doubt will Everton, who had little luck themselves yesterday. Consequently they remain at the foot of the Premiership without a win after their fourth consecutive away defeat of the season. United, meanwhile, keep Newcastle in their sights thanks to goals late in each half by Andrei Kanchelskis and Lee Sharpe.

It was an inauspicious start to a portentous week for Everton and their manager, Mike Walker, whose position is under increasing scrutiny. Reports from Scotland suggest that he will sign Rangers' Trevor Steven and Iain Durrant, and take their striker Duncan Ferguson on loan, before Wednesday's Coca-Cola Cup tie at Portsmouth. Walker would not comment last night.

There should be some sympathy for Everton. They defended adequately enough for the most part but at the other end of the field they could not have punched a hole in a wet Liverpool Echo. Six bookings, four for Everton, told of an undistinguished rather than unpleasant match.

Had Everton shown more confidence when in possession and the courage to commit men forward, it might have been a different story. The Everton game-plan appeared to call for Vinny Samways and Graham Stuart to come to Daniel Amokachi's aid from deep, but the support was notional rather than actual.

The return of Eric Cantona gave United a wider perspective than they had in Istanbul but the pace on which their game relies at home was often absent. Paul Ince and Roy Keane could assert control only fitfully, their supply line cut by the scurrying Samways and Stuart, while Cantona was frequently frustrated by Joe Parkinson.

'Everton played some good football. They just need a break to get that first win,' said the United manager Alex Ferguson, relieved for the second time in a week.

'I hope it wasn't just because we have come to Old Trafford,' said Walker. 'If it wasn't, then things are looking a lot better.' It remains ominous for them, however, that, playing better than hitherto this season and with United's pistons misfiring, they were still clearly beaten.

In addition, they looked like scoring only from long range, mostly from set-pieces. Twice, splendid curled free- kicks from just outside the penalty area by Andy Hinchcliffe were saved equally excellently by Peter Schmeichel, who also dived low to deny Stuart late in the game. The other chance they pointed to, claiming a penalty when Gary Pallister did enough to put off a dithering Gary Rowett, seemed fanciful.

Despite their more subdued display, United still created the more opportunities as Everton's defensive resolution was not always matched by competence.

Everton survived thanks to shots into the side-netting by Kanchelskis and wide by Keane and an overhead kick on to the top of the net by Hughes. But they were undone four minutes from the interval. Ince fed the ball wide to Sharpe on the left and his fine cross to the far post was met by Kanchelskis who headed home his fourth goal of the season to make him United's top scorer.

It was a glimpse of the incisive United which Old Trafford expects, but after the break their play was again sporadic.

Finally United sealed the match two minutes from time. Ince, once more United's engine, played Sharpe in and his mis-hit right-foot shot bobbled, with a cruelty to which Everton are becoming accustomed, over the already committed Southall.