A grimly predictable 2-0 defeat was the outcome of Everton’s visit to Manchester United on Sunday as David Moyes’ side maintained their unenviable record at Old Trafford. Not since 1993, the first season of the Premier League, have Everton won there and last season’s draw was very much the exception and not the norm.
United were rarely taxed. Everton had a decent amount of possession, particularly in the first-half, but did little to make it count. David De Gea barely had a save to make all game as Everton lacked urgency, creativity and energy.
They were distinctly unable to trouble the United backline, and the high ball to Marouane Fellaini was comfortably dealt with. Since United’s rear guard snuffed out the service to Victor Anichebe and the handful of crosses pulled back into dangerous areas were similarly kept out, it was a particularly impotent Everton showing.
In truth the performance wasn’t altogether different from the first 70 minutes of the draw with Aston Villa a week earlier. Everton are pedestrian at the minute, appearing slow of mind and of body. The dynamic pressing that marked their early season results is long gone and the attacking movement has dried up too.
Maybe it’s to be expected in the middle of February, half way through a long, hard season. Players are not machines and they do tire, no matter what fitness work is done in training to try and keep the batteries charged. Tired bodies and tired minds combine to produce the sort of limp attacking display on show at the home of the presumptive champions.
The January transfer window is well-placed to breathe new life into a flagging squad, then, but only if you’re in a position to use it. For much of the month it seemed Everton weren’t, and then when they did try to add to their ranks, first through Leroy Fer and then Alvaro Negredo, the familiar stumbling blocks fitness concerns and a dearth of finances got in the way.
The XI that took to the field against United contained three changes from the one that beat the same opposition on the opening day. United had five changes. The squad depth of the teams above and around Everton is going to prove crucial and the early signs are that Everton are playing with a short hand.
That said, Moyes does have options in his squad that have gone curiously underused. Bryan Oviedo is the chief candidate, a speedy Costa Rican winger bought in August who has impressed in his all-too-fleeting appearances. Everton were utterly leaden-footed against United but that’s not an accusation that could ever be thrown against Oviedo.
It shouldn’t be suggested that the 22-year-old is the answer to all Everton’s problems – although the less he’s used the greater the clamour for him to play becomes – but he’s featured in only 14 games, most of them as a substitute. Perhaps Moyes is holding Oviedo back for the run-in, but if so, he might find Everton have little left to play for by that point.
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