Notorious slow starters Everton buck the trend to leave Manchester United feeling blue

 

Goodison Park

Stanley Park shimmered in the heat, the sunlight sparkled off the glass in the Gladstone Pavilion and the boating lakes. The evening sky was midnight blue, the grass vividly green. It was August and a great time to be facing Everton.

David Moyes's side are habitually among the worst starters in the Premier League. If the season stretched from January to May, Everton would back themselves to qualify for the Champions League most years. In contrast, they approach the opening fixtures like a hungover student wondering if there are any afternoon lectures worth attending.

Summer after summer Moyes has fretted about Everton's starts and tinkered with the club's pre-season routines. This had been the most chaotic of the lot. For reasons best known to themselves, Everton had agreed to spend some of July playing the Turkish side Galatasaray in Indonesia – a country that attracts several pages of Foreign Office warnings. Thankfully, perhaps, the tournament was cancelled before a ball could be kicked.

They had lost Tim Cahill, their most consistent goalscorer, and seen the departure of one of the jewels of their youth policy, Jack Rodwell, to Manchester City, a club Everton consistently beat but with whom they cannot compete.

And yet the men they managed to keep turned the night and all its expectations on its head. Leighton Baines, who might have gone to Old Trafford in the close season, is probably the best left-back in the country. Marouane Fellaini terrorised what was admittedly a makeshift Manchester United defence and Phil Jagielka, once courted by Arsenal, cleared off the line. This time last year Everton treated Goodison to a defeat by Queen's Park Rangers. Here, they outplayed Manchester United.

In cricket seasons gone by Yorkshire used to refer to itself as "the Champion County", ignoring the small matter of whether or not they were actually champions at the time. This kind of aura surrounds Manchester United, an impression reinforced by the statement of intent represented by the signings of Robin van Persie and, perhaps more significantly, of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund, a team that last season beat Bayern Munich wherever they met. It was the bench that told you that, for all the frantic activity of summer, Manchester United are still a work in progress. The flashguns, naturally, were trained on the slim, still boyish figure of Van Persie, perhaps United's most iconic transfer since Eric Cantona crossed the Pennines two decades ago but whose impact on the night was peripheral.

Alongside him on the Manchester United bench were men who emphasised that football always changes. Scott Wootton, born across the Mersey in Birkenhead, had exchanged Liverpool's Academy for Manchester United's and impressed on a pre-season tour designed to squeeze every cent out of the summer that had taken Sir Alex Ferguson's players from Cape Town to Oslo via Shanghai.

Two seasons ago, Dimitar Berbatov was the Premier League's leading scorer but now he has as much relevance to the future of Manchester United as Frank Stapleton. Amid all the debate as to how the Dutchman would fit in; how his arrival would affect Javier Hernandez or Danny Welbeck nobody seems to have given Berbatov a thought. There were some, seeing the Bulgarian take his place on the bench, who expressed surprise he was still at the club. Naturally, with United a goal down, there was no question of sending him on to salvage the match.

Perhaps the substitute taking the keenest interest was Anders Lindegaard. There is no relationship quite like that between a goalkeeper and his deputy. They train together with the knowledge that for one to play, the other must either fail or get himself injured.

David De Gea was injured, flattened by Fellaini, but recovered to perform as he spent much of his debut season at Old Trafford; saving brilliantly and instinctively and then allowing himself to be intimidated by crosses with fatal results. The last time these two sides had met he had conceded four times, a result that more than any other ensured the championship would not be retained. This was no way to go about winning it back.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York