David Moyes's side were supposed to give Wayne Rooney a hard time on his latest return to his spiritual home but even though their fans provided a rowdy welcome, the team did not. Quite the opposite. The England forward had a hand in United's opening goal just before half-time, contributing to the move that fnished with Ruud van Nistelrooy firing home John O'Shea's cross. Then, within a minute of the restart, he accepted a gift from Joseph Yobo, racing on to the Everton defender's lazy, square pass to wrap up the points with United's second.
Superstars do not need that kind of help, nor do they refuse it when offered, even if Rooney has in the past stressed to Everton fans that as far as he is concerned, once a blue always a blue is the rule.
It was unfortunate for him that it was Everton who were the victims of United's determination to make a better start than they have in the past two seasons. "Last season we had a fragmented start to the season because players were missing and we were always chasing Chelsea. Now we have got a good start and I hope we can take advantage of that," Sir Alex Ferguson, United's manager, said after seeing his side steal a march on the champions Chelsea and Arsenal, who both play today.
They did it without Ryan Giggs, who has a chest infection, and Cristiano Ronaldo, who has a leg injury. But there were plenty of positives for United, with the South Korean midfielder Park Ji-Sung and goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar making good Premiership debuts. Not the least encouraging was Van Nistelrooy's goal, which may signal that he will not repeat last season's frustrations in front of goal. And if Rooney has a hot streak, then rivals beware.
All the disappointment yesterday belonged to Everton and their manager. Moyes. Speaking from experience as a former defender, he was at a loss to explain Yobo's lapse. "The first thing you learn as a centre-half is you do not play square across the box," he said. "You do that in Sunday league teams."
Wigan, elevated to the Premiership for the first time, will not want to make any 'Sunday league' errors against Chelsea today, and they will hope to fare better than the other side who gained automatic promotion, Sunderland. They spied hope when one of their many new signings, Andy Gray, equalised against Charlton on the stroke of half-time at the Stadium of Light and then the visitors had Darren Ambrose sent off. But Danny Murphy's free-kick and Bent's second sent them to a 3-1 defeat.
West Ham, up through the play-offs, fared much better, beating Blackburn 3-1 despite falling behind. Teddy Sheringham, still scoring at 39, equalised and goals from Nigel Reo-Coker and Matthew Etherington made it a happy day for the Hammers. Will Rooney still be playing in 20 years' time?
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- David Moyes
- John O'Shea
- Manchester United
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- Ruud Van Nistelrooy
- Stephen Carter
- Wayne Rooney