Royle pays tribute to his solo `genius'

FA CUP FINAL 1995 Everton benefited from full array of Anders Limpar's art, says Mark Burton
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The Independent Online
Swedish is a tricky language. Rather like Anders Limpar, it is unfathomable to those without in-depth knowledge of it.

That is probably why Joe Royle, the Everton manager, stuck to his native English when describing his soloist from Solna, who shone for 70 minutes in Saturday's victory over Manchester United. "Anders is a genius. He is a genius, believe me," he said.

Certainly the unpredictable playmaker showed the Wembley crowd all the skills he too often fails to display, plus a few tricks - like tracking back and tackling the toughest - that many would not have seen before. Limpar v Paul Ince - no contest? Absolutely right. In their crucial Cup final confrontations, Limpar came out on top, not least in the 30th minute.

Then the Swede hurled himself into a challenge as Ince weighed up his limited options, forcing him into a hurried pass. He then reacted like a greyhound to the trap opening when Dave Watson blocked Ince's vain attempt to recover his error and spearheaded the decisive break. A few minutes later, he caught Ince napping again, stripping the ball away from him and releasing Graham Stuart on another dangerous foray with an instinctive sweeping pass from left to right.

"What you've got to do," Royle explained, "is just to saturate Anders with the ball. As often as you can, you've just got to give him the ball." And then? Well, hope for the best, it seems.

The best was what Royle got on Saturday, and Limpar's talent for the unexpected, his skill at switching the pace and direction of play shone all the brighter for the absence from the United line-up of the rampaging winger Andrei Kanchelskis and the man Alex Ferguson describes as "mon genius", Eric Cantona.

What wouldn't the United manager have given to have had either of those creative talents at his disposal on Saturday. But for his constant chewing, Cantona would have watched from the bench with teeth gritted as Ince and Roy Keane were drawn deeper and deeper into their own obsessions with grittiness.

Everton built a wall across the edge of their penalty area that represented an irresistible physical challenge to United's central midfielders. They battered away at it with their banality, asking miracles of the well-chaperoned Mark Hughes, and rarely sought to undermine its foundations with a subtle switch in the angle of attack.

They were hardly helped by the failure of Lee Sharpe and Nicky Butt, who started on the flanks, to reveal an ounce of inspiration, a lack which became all the more obvious when Ryan Giggs came on. He circumvented the thick blue line on the left and generated enough uncertainty to enable him to go inside and create United's best chance for Paul Scholes.

Neville Southall's double save to deny the young striker made Ferguson realise it would take something special to beat the Welsh goalkeeper. "We didn't produce it," he said, and bemoaned the fact that his younger players had, with the exception of Gary Neville, shown their inexperience at crucial moments.

But it was his experienced players who fell into Everton's stifling trap. That spelled failure in anybody's language.