Marouane Fellaini gets Everton off to a flyer as Robin van Persie left on the bench by Manchester United

Everton 1 Manchester United 0: Midfielder scores only goal as Everton beat United, who bring on Van Persie to no avail

Goodison Park

Out-fought away from home in the league and beaten with a goal from a set-piece: at least Robin van Persie's Manchester United debut last night was not too much of a departure from all those years he spent at Arsenal.

After losing out in May in a title race that was decided on goal difference, it could hardly be denied that every point counts these days, even three that are dropped in August. For that alone, Sir Alex Ferguson will have reason to regret this defeat at Goodison Park, although he will have plenty more cause to look back in anger.

Quite simply his team seemed to be caught cold on this warm night on Merseyside when they faced an Everton team who, from the very start, looked most likely to command the game. In Marouane Fellaini, the match-winning goalscorer, Everton had the outstanding player who left the pitch to a standing ovation when he was substituted in injury-time at the end.

Unfortunately for United, even after Fellaini, Everton had the next best four players on the pitch at the very least when you took into account the performances of Steven Pienaar, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin. For United, this was their first opening day defeat since they lost to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the first game of the 2004-2005 season.

In April, Everton had twice fought back from two goals behind to United at Old Trafford to earn a 4-4 draw, a result that did as much as any result to change the direction of the title race before the dramatic last day. It barely needs to be said but given how little David Moyes has been able to spend this summer – in net terms it would appear he is in profit – last night was another small miracle.

At the start of the game, Everton paraded Kevin Mirallas, a pnds5.3m signing from Olympiakos whose fee, along with that pnds4.5m paid to Spurs for Pienaar has been easily offset by the pnds15m deal for Jack Rodwell. The only other signing, Steven Naismith, was a free agent. This is the reality of life at Everton yet, once again, this looks like a very competitive team.

United operate on another plain and last night there were debuts for Shinji Kagawa, worth pnds17m, and, eventually, Van Persie who came on for the last 20 minutes. On the bench, Ferguson could select Ashley Young and Dimitar Berbatov, still at the club and unused last night. It was in defence that his problems really started.

With Rio Ferdinand now out for up to a month, United looked decidedly makeshift at the back where Michael Carrick filled the gap alongside Nemanja Vidic. The England midfielder found himself dominated by Fellaini for the game’s only goal, headed in from Baines’ corner, and United missed his presence in the middle of the pitch where Paul Scholes struggled to exert influence.

With just ten minutes of the game gone, the overwhelming sense was United would have taken a point even then. Everton attacked them briskly and Fellaini, behind Nikica Jelavic, in the 4-4-1-1 formation was a problem that United never got close to solving.

By the 14th minute, Fellaini had turned Patrice Evra and Carrick and struck the post. By the 17th minute he had body-checked David De Gea at a corner with a challenge that had Ferguson out of his seat and flapping his arms around as he berated the fourth official.

There were two early bookings for United; one for Luis Nani and another for an embarrassingly savage challenge on Darron Gibson by Scholes which even the latter recognised he had to apologise for. Wayne Rooney, not treated with half as much hostility as he once was by this crowd, had few sights of goal on a very quiet night for him.

Last season, Everton lost four of their first seven league games including the opening match at home to Queens Park Rangers. This time it was different and the chances just kept coming. In the last 15 minutes of the first half, De Gea saved from Pienaar, Leon Osman and then a Baines free-kick which was deflected on its way through.

Baines was priced out of a transfer to United this summer and his chances of a move there now look to be over with Alexander Buttner of Vitesse Arnhem most likely to go to Old Trafford. Last night, the England left-back was excellent in defence and attack, certainly much more so than his opposite number, Evra. 

After the break, Fellaini out-jumped the away team’s defence to head the ball down to Osman whose shot came off De Gea’s bar and bounced down and out. Then, before the hour, the home side deservedly, finally, took the lead.

It was Carrick’s job to mark Fellaini at corners although heaven knows why. Despite the danger posed by Distin and Jagielka, the latter of whom it was that Vidic picked up; the man of the moment was Fellaini. He should have been Vidic’s responsibility. When Baines’ corner came over on 57 minutes, the Belgium international flattened Carrick on his way to scoring.

Then at last, Ferguson called for Van Persie, sending him on in place of Danny Welbeck who had been a marginal figure at best on the right side of three attackers behind Rooney. Van Persie was deployed alongside Rooney as United switched to a more orthodox 4-4-2 that immediately made them look more effective.

Still, the best chance that United created was a ragged opportunity for Tom Cleverley which was brilliantly kicked off the line by Jagielka. Van Persie crossed another for Kagawa, that Howard closed down well. United lost on the opening day in 1992 and 1995 and went on to win the title. They can easily recover but then last night left much room for improvement.


Get Adobe Flash player


Man of the match Fellaini.

Match rating 7/10.

Referee A Marriner (W Midlands).

Attendance 38,415.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before