The abuse for David Moyes came loud and thick and sharp at the end but nothing the Everton fans might throw at him could possibly have cut him quite like the way this ended. Those 11 long years he had endured, hopelessly trying to get a win at Old Trafford, a stadium where Everton had not walked out the victors since August 1992 – and here was Roberto Martinez taking the delirious walk, first time around for the club.
The choruses from a raucous Everton end included “Are you watching, David Moyes?” and “Sacked in the morning” but it was “Oviedo-baby” – in celebration of the adventurous Costan Rican full-back who scored the late winner – which said most about a new team, with a new positivity.
There were big risks about the way that Everton attacked to the very end but Martinez insisted before the game that he would rather lose heroically, playing well, than snatch a win. They did both.
Moyes admitted afterwards: “I’m very disappointed. We needed a bit of good fortune and we didn’t get it. We didn’t defend the goal well enough, so it was our own doing. We had some chances as well, as did Everton. They have been playing well and that’s why they are up near the top of the league.
“It wasn’t about me tonight. I was fortunate to manage Everton and I’m fortunate to be managing Manchester United. It’s a big catch-up for us now.”
The ironies were everywhere after the final whistle sounded. The right-back standing in for the player – Leighton Baines – who Moyes wants to take off to Old Trafford, being shouldered in front of the away end by Sylvain Distin, as if the two of them had won the Cup. Moyes plunged his hands into his pockets and marched away with a face like thunder.
Moyes had claimed he was indifferent to the Everton fans’ response to him – he “wouldn’t be surprised, wouldn’t be disappointed” if insults rained down on him, he said – though emerging from the dug-out for the first time to a chorus of boos and “David Moyes is full of s***” would not have been part of his mental picture. It looked in those very early moments as if it might be a long night for him, with United immediately unsettled by the pace and skill which characterises the Martinez incarnation of Everton. The same starting XI that gradually reduced Liverpool’s midfield to pulp 10 days ago started where it had left off in that game, as Kevin Mirallas cut inside from the left and before Rafael da Silva could find a tackle unleashed a shot which David de Gea palmed over from in front of his face.
But United recovered to dominate periods of a first half in which they lacked the incision and inspiration to cut Everton open. Their creative play was reliant on Shinji Kagawa, who could not seem to find the pockets of space which he used in Leverkusen last week while demonstrating that he is a far more dangerous weapon behind the striker than when deployed from wide. The room Kagawa likes to operate in was often not there as Everton retreated to clog the home team’s final third.
A header deftly guided by Ryan Giggs from an Antonia Valencia cross fell inches wide of Tim Howard’s right-hand post. A surging run into the area by Wayne Rooney also brought an anonymous shot, which Sylvain Distin’s deflection turned into a perilous one. The defender’s touch diverted the ball onto the base of the post and Howard cleared as Kagawa lurked for the rebound. But that was as real and present as the danger got. There were moments of promise for Everton. Ross Barkley, a player the new manager has been far more willing to field than his predecessor, was treated to a two-minute pitch-side tutorial by Martinez at an early break in proceedings. But he over-hit an important pass, dropping it wide of Romelu Lukaku, who was waiting to profit from Barkley’s powerful counter-attacking breakaway.
Lukaku’s threat was one Nemanja Vidic just about managed to contain. The striker’s dancing 40th-minute run on Vidic, preceding a low, hard shot which De Gea repelled with his knee, was not the only contribution which suggested this night had a goal in it for him. It was why United sorely needed one of their own.
As Everton continued to show the greater attacking conviction, Moyes tried to introduce some conviction into his ranks. Adnan Januzaj arrived in place of Rafael, while Martinez countered with a creator of his own, Gerard Deulofeu for Barkley. You felt that Delofeu had blown it when, racing in on De Gea from a ball Lukaku had laid through, he hit it tamely at the keeper’s shins. But United’s stand-out chance came and went too. Danny Welbeck was fractionally slow to leap – finding the bar instead of the net, after Howard had sharply palmed a Patrice Evra header out to him.
Oviedo was not so sluggish. As Everton surged forward once again, Lukaku sent the ball across the face of the area and the defender ran to slot it home expertly with Valencia nowhere in sight.
Man of the match Distin.
Match rating 7/10.
Referee M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).