Moyes manages to add insult to Goodison's night of disgrace

Everton 0 Manchester United 2
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The Independent Football

If David Moyes confirms his promise and becomes one of the big managers - and English football ever has the courage to speak out against a sickening descent into the great maw of yob culture - he might just look back on the last few days with some embarrassment.

If David Moyes confirms his promise and becomes one of the big managers - and English football ever has the courage to speak out against a sickening descent into the great maw of yob culture - he might just look back on the last few days with some embarrassment.

They have not been his finest. First, before some vital revisionism, he told the world that Chelsea's William Gallas was the real culprit for going down when butted in the back of his head by James Beattie.

Now, after a night of malignant spirit and some criminality on the terraces he was declaring: "I thought the crowd were great for the team and I'm going to need them in the next few weeks." Great? Needed? At such moments it is hard not to cringe for what has happened to the values of the national game.

There was one telling micro-picture of this "great" following nominated by the club manager as a vital element in Everton's attempt to beat the odds and qualify for a place in the Champions' League.

It was of proud parents sitting with their young son in the expensive seats. He was wearing a blue shirt with Wayne Rooney's old number and across it was scrawled the legend "Traitor". The child could have been no more than eight years old. Did he pick the shirt out of his own mature appraisal of what is right or wrong? Or was it given to him as an early careless lesson in how easy it is to hate?

In its way it was as disturbing as the lawlessness that saw United's goalkeeper Roy Carroll going down after being hit by a coin, and the collecting by stewards and police of mobile phones which lay on the terraces after failing to reach the pitch. And the golf ball that bounced around without the courtesy of a cry of "four" and the other missiles which sailed on to the field when United, as they did almost effortlessly at times, took the play to Everton. There was the graffiti "Rooney Die". There was the relentless booing whenever he was near the ball. Carroll was reported to have told stewards that he feared for his safety. It is an understandable concern when mob feeling is on a high, unchecked tide.

Rooney handled himself very well indeed. He snapped back, it is true, when plainly dealt a gratuitous insult by a well-dressed couple on the touchline, who it turned out were match sponsors. What were they sponsoring? A football match or Merseyside's version of a hate rally? You couldn't blame Rooney for his flash of indignation, and certainly there was not a hint of the misguided, vengeful arrogance which persuaded him to taunt the Kop recently.

What did Rooney do so wrong to make himself such a pariah? He prosecuted his career, as any free-born young Englishman is entitled to do, and he came home, in his case out of professional obligation, but as so many do from time to time after making a success of their lives - and often to a fever of resentment. With Rooney's exit he left a club enriched by £27 million. Yes, he behaved well, kept his head up and played with moments of sweet brilliance. He didn't have to engulf Goodison, as he did when shattering Arsenal with his first, unforgettable goal in the big time, because Cristiano Ronaldo, Quinton Fortune and Roy Keane all did that in their different ways.

For the second time in a week, Everton, the brave and unlikely challengers to membership of the élite, were essentially outclassed by their superiors, Chelsea and United. After Moyes had given his anodyne verdict on the scabrous demeanour of Goodison, he did say something sensible enough to make it a possible source of regret if he makes good on his jokey but clearly implied threat to follow Sir Alex Ferguson's refusal to meet the press after a game. He said it would probably take four or five years of "realistic spending" for Everton to hope to bridge the gap of class that now exists between his battlers and the top three.

Indeed, it will take all of that. You couldn't escape this conclusion after United produced a victory that seemed like a thousand cuts, so easy was their running, so smooth and acute their passing. Everton went with Gary Naysmith at left-back rather than the experienced and defensively knowing Italian Alessandro Pistone, something which Moyes may have regretted when the former gave Ronaldo half an acre to beautifully cross on to the head of Fortune for the opening goal. Here another Everton problem was revealed. The normally dogged Kevin Kilbane, who was suffering from a virus, was left standing before Ronaldo so easily bypassed Naysmith.

That was the match settled, so commanding was Keane at the heart of the United effort. This may have been their most coherent performance of the season, which was a happy augury for the visit of Milan and the sense that Chelsea's run to the finish line of the Premiership may not yet be beyond the possibility of an ambush or two.

Ronaldo's second-half goal flowed from an authority that was challenged only once, when Marcus Bent failed to convert a beautifully delivered through pass by Mikel Arteta, and, in the end, it was control so profound that no dramatic intervention was required by the most talented player on the field. Rooney simply got through his game and kept his dignity. It was more, much more, than you could say for the baying representatives of half of what likes to think of itself as a warm-hearted city.

Goals: Fortune (23) 0-1; Ronaldo (58) 0-2.

Everton (4-5-1): Martyn; Hibbert, Yobo, Stubbs, Naysmith; McFadden (Weir, 68), Carsley, Arteta (Pistone, 80), Osman, Kilbane; Bent. Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Plessis, Vaughan.

Manchester United (4-5-1): Carroll; G Neville, Ferdinand, Brown, Heinze; Ronaldo, Scholes, Keane (Miller, 81), P Neville, Fortune; Rooney. Substitutes not used: Howard (gk), Giggs, Smith, Spector.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Booked: Everton Weir. Manchester United: Keane.

Man of the match: Ronaldo.

Attendance: 38,664.