Ferguson back in old ways as United see red

Everton 1 Manchester United 0
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The Independent Online

Duncan Ferguson rolled back the years last night, securing Everton's first Premiership victory over Manchester United in 21 attempts stretching back to 1995, when he also headed the game's only goal from a set-piece at the Gwladys Street end of Goodison Park.

Duncan Ferguson rolled back the years last night, securing Everton's first Premiership victory over Manchester United in 21 attempts stretching back to 1995, when he also headed the game's only goal from a set-piece at the Gwladys Street end of Goodison Park.

Now 33, Ferguson's part in keeping his team four points clear of Liverpool prompted the kind of hero worship Wayne Rooney used to join in as a boy. Rooney's reappearance at Everton prompted predictable hostility, yet at least he stayed on the pitch. Gary Neville and Paul Scholes did not, Neville being sent off with 17 minutes remaining and Scholes following in stoppage time after he kicked out at Kevin Kilbane.

The fact that Rooney had already returned to Everton in the FA Cup did nothing to diminish the rancour of his reception. The 19-year-old, who once sported a T-shirt bearing the legend "Once a Blue, Always a Blue", was booed during the kick-about, jeered when his name was announced and vilified when he ran over to the bench, with only six minutes played, to have blood wiped from his nose after taking a clearance in the face.

Rooney began in a deep-lying, left-sided role, yet managed to remain the centre of attention during a frenzied start to the match. He struck the first shot in anger, a venomous effort from 30 yards which Nigel Martyn did well to parry after eight minutes, and soon made the first heavy challenge, sparking a bout of "handbags" by cutting down Tim Cahill.

When his former admirers on the Gwladys Street end launched into a chorus of choice insults, Rooney raised an arm to them as if to say "nice try, but you don't bother me".

He did not retaliate when Mikel Arteta bowled him over, though it was as well that Tony Hibbert jumped out of the way when his erstwhile colleague made a fierce sliding tackle.

Amid all the antipathy rolling down from the stands, United played the more measured football. Everton, unsurprisingly given that Ferguson was starting for only the third time in his 30 appearances this season, frequently resorted to the high ball. One such delivery, from a 33rd-minute free-kick by Lee Carsley, created the opportunity for Cahill to unleash an overhead kick, Wes Brown clearing off the line.

Rooney had increasingly moved in-field, he and Cristiano Ronaldo playing closer to Ruud van Nistelrooy. Four minutes into the second half, he spun in midfield and chipped an exquisite pass to Scholes, who had ghosted in behind Everton's back line. Scholes' aim was true, but Martyn hurtled off his line to narrow the angle and block the shot.

In the 55th minute, however, a combination of sloppiness by United and Everton's set-piece prowess led to the home side taking the lead. Rio Ferdinand played a lazy clearance which put Ronaldo under pressure and led to the winger fouling Kilbane. From the free-kick, swung in from the left by Arteta, Ferguson stole in front of Ferdinand to send a glancing header past Tim Howard from six yards.

Far from forgetting to taunt Rooney and focus on backing their team, Everton's supporters intensified their abuse. There were signs, too, that his early cool had been ruffled. In the 64th minute his late challenge dumped Steve Watson on the floor, only for Mr Dowd to keep the yellow card in his pocket and admonish Neville instead for something he said.

United pressed hard to restore parity. Ronaldo stung Martyn's hands with a shot, but their cause was hardly helped by Neville's 73rd-minute dismissal for kicking the ball into the crowd as they barracked him during a break in play.

Everton (4-4-2): Martyn; Hibbert, Watson, Weir, Yobo; Cahill (McFadden, 85), Carsley, Arteta, Kilbane; Bent (Osman, 76), Ferguson (Beattie, 79). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Beattie, McFadden, Osman, Vaughan.

Manchester United (4-5-1): Howard; Neville, Ferdinand, Brown (Silvestre, 73), Heinze; Ronaldo, Fletcher (O'Shea, 77), Keane, Scholes, Rooney; Van Nistelrooy. Substitutes not used: Carroll (gk), Smith, O'Shea, Fortune, Silvestre.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

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