Solskjaer singes the Blues

United's eternal substitute starts a match and finishes off Everton

Let's put it down to feng shui; the fact that Manchester United could spend 28 midweek hours above the clouds, secure their fourth cup of the year in Tokyo, and still retain a familiar harmony and symmetry.

Let's put it down to feng shui; the fact that Manchester United could spend 28 midweek hours above the clouds, secure their fourth cup of the year in Tokyo, and still retain a familiar harmony and symmetry.

Sir Alex Ferguson might have changed the furniture around here yesterday, but there was still the same design and direction to his team, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as imposing a gift from Norway as the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree, proving that he is rather more than an honest super-sub. Like buses, his goals tend to come along in clusters. Another four yesterday, just as he managed against Nottingham Forest earlier this year, took his tally to six this season. But this was only his eighth start. Typically, the impish striker greeted all of them with a modesty that others might emulate.

Solskjaer was one of the tourists to Japan, too. But jet-lag? Not a bit of it.

Three-one to the good at half-time, Ferguson's side put Everton to the sword immediately afterwards and indulged themselves only in the final quarter hour by playing out time with exhibition football.

Sir Alex, whose team were given a guard of honour by the visitors as Roy Keane led United out clutching the Toyota Cup, had described the win in Tokyo as his team's curtain call to last season. The stage lights have flickered a little this season on occasion, but here they played to the gallery, treating Ferguson's good friend Walter Smith with disdain once the trivial issue of an early goal from the visitors had been overcome.

Arsenal's surprisingly facile morning defeat of Leicester made them Premiership leaders, albeit temporarily, and applied extra pressure on United to perform. They responded in style, with Paul Scholes fashioning two of Solskjaer's goals and proving himself a powerhouse on the right of midfield.

It was all a welcome culmination to a trying week for Ferguson, in which the future of Keane continues to be a trial - negotiations start again on Tuesday - while the reported nocturnal excesses of David Beckham and the suggested influence of the winger's wife, Victoria, in trying to persuade him to move south have dominated the tabloid pages. Yesterday, the manager, perhaps wisely, placed the England man on the substitutes' bench, where he remained.

Everton, without a victory for seven games, lacked the midfield menace of the suspended Don Hutchison, whose position was filled by the Portuguese international Abel Xavier. With 10 of his squad members missing Smith would have welcomed any of the four outfield United substitutes: Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Beckham and Phil Neville. The absence of the first two gave the Nou Camp heroes, goalscorers Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham, a rare opportunity to cement a partnership from the first minute, rather than the latter stages.

For the first five minutes they did just that, aided by Ryan Giggs who was causing havoc on the left. From one of the Welshman's crosses Nicky Butt's goal-bound attempt rebounded off the relieved Richard Dunne.

Yet, with virtually the first cessation of pressure, Everton scored. The left-back, David Unsworth, dispatched one of those low, tantalising crosses into the goalmouth that defenders detest, and although Campbell missed the ball, Jeffers swept it home delightedly in front of a silenced Stretford End. In the process, Mark Bosnich was seriously enough injured to be replaced by Raimond van der Gouw. There is, seemingly, no end to Ferguson's goalkeeping problems.

United retaliated with a smart header from Solskjaer - after Giggs's centre had picked him out - which required a miracle save from the goalkeeper, Paul Gerrard.

But Everton remained a potent threat on the break. If the United spectators were concerned about the condition of their favourites it appeared justified at that stage. Young Jeffers' movement off the ball always looked likely to cause breaches in the home rearguard and Everton's defence, commanded by Richard Gough, looked relatively secure against United's forward line.

But within three minutes, Ferguson's men turned the game their way. The catalyst was a handball by Dunne which yielded a penalty award from Graham Poll. Denis Irwin converted the spot-kick with his customary coolness.

While Smith's men were still cursing their fortune, Solskjaer inflicted even greater misery when a magnificent ball from Scholes sent him scampering clear of the Everton defence. Although Gerrard did well to advance and get his hand to the shot, the ball had enough legs to bounce into an empty net.

Ferguson's team were still not exactly convincing at that stage, and there was always the feeling that the impressive Jeffers could trouble them further. But they left the field at the interval in good heart after Solskjaer increased their lead with a goal which had a touch of déjà vu about it.

Again, Scholes spoon fed him with a delicious pass, and again, despite the best endeavours of Gerrard, the Norwegian forced the ball home.

Solskjaer completed his hat-trick when he headed home Irwin's sublime cross, and then added to it when Dunne unwittingly set him up after winning the ball from Giggs. Match over. United back on top of the Premiership and, in a sense, on top of the world.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
music
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
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
and  

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

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own