'Manchester United played around Robin van Persie, we did not use him enough,' says Alex Ferguson following Everton defeat

 

Goodison Park

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted that Manchester United failed to make sufficient use of Robin van Persie in the 22 minutes the striker was on the pitch.

Although the United manager could console himself with the thought that he had won the Premier League twice after losing on the opening day of the season, he argued his side had failed to make proper use of their considerable possession and their £24m forward.

"I am not criticising the team," he said. "They worked well and played some great football. It is difficult here, where you have the crowd influencing the referee all the time. We played around Robin van Persie too much. We didn't show enough penetration and with Robin in your team you want to use his ability against the centre-backs. But we did not use him enough."

As a debut from the marquee signing of the summer, it was underwhelming stuff. Ferguson argued that Manchester United had been the "better football team" and might have had a penalty when Danny Welbeck was "pushed as he went into the box". Nevertheless, Ferguson's attitude can be gauged by the fact that the only journalists he spoke to were ones employed by his club.

However, few at Goodison would argue against Marouane Fellaini being man of this match. Perhaps he was aided by the absence of key defensive personnel that forced Ferguson to press Michael Carrick into service as a centre-half while Antonio Valencia auditioned as a right back but this was the Belgian's finest performance in an Everton shirt. In the wake of the departures of Tim Cahill and Jack Rodwell it was a timely intervention.

"When he performs like that, he is unplayable," said his captain, Phil Neville. "Just because of his sheer size and the way he puts himself around. I think his best position is when he is causing problems in the attacking third. With his sheer size he can catch the ball on his chest and bring people into play. He was the focal point of every one of our moves."

Everton's players expressed surprise not at the result but at its timing. David Moyes remarked that the only time he had overseen a good start at Goodison Park had been in 2004 when he had led them into the Champions League qualifiers – and even that campaign had started with a thumping at home by Arsenal.

"We don't normally start the season well and the manager has been drumming that into us all summer," said Neville. "Manchester United may have had the majority of possession but we had the majority of chances. We scored, hit the bar and the post and saw De Gea make some great saves from Osman and Baines.

"This time the manager has got us back earlier into training than any other Premier League team and, more importantly, he has recruited early. Normally, Everton recruit late and they are still bedding in around October, which may be why we start slowly."

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