Pienaar 39, Cahill 91, Arteta 92
MANCHESTER UNITED 3
Fletcher 43, Vidic 47, Berbatov 66
Not even the absence of Wayne Rooney could detract from an enthralling 3-3 draw between Everton and Manchester United, but despite taking the lead and clawing back from two goals down in the dying minutes, the Blues’ lack of class in front of goal proved telling as the makeshift strike force of Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill failed to show enough forward nous to seriously threaten in the manner of a Premier League quality attack.
Lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Mikel Arteta and John Heitinga stationed in midfield and Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar wide, Cahill and Fellaini routinely switched positions, with one leading the attack and the other dropping between the lines. But while the presence of the two converted midfielders ensured the United defence would be pressured thoroughly, there was not enough guile to go with the graft. For much of the first half, Everton’s midfield harried their opponents into turning over possession and then had the ability to use the ball constructively but the play often became static when either Cahill or Fellaini were involved, their hesitancy in an unfamiliar role perhaps leading to an unsure touch or moment of indecision that Jonny Evans and Nemanja Vidic pounced upon.
David Moyes acknowledged the Cahill-Fellaini axis was not working in the second half, first by dropping the Belgian into midfield, with Arteta pushing forward to support Cahill, and then by introducing Yakubu. The burly No 22 has long divided Everton supporters, with his barrel-chested frame thought to be indicative of a lack of fitness even when bagging 21 goals in the 2007/08 season, his first on Merseyside. Yakubu’s tunnel vision approach to goal scoring and deceptive strength – seen when he held off a crowd of United defenders to slide Osman in on goal, only for Osman to tamely shoot at Edwin van der Sar – cannot be replicated by either Cahill or Fellaini and may be exactly what the cultured approach play of Arteta and Pienaar needs to produce something more tangible than mere plaudits.
After struggling to find the net in their three previous Premier League games, scoring just once despite claiming the lion’s share of possession, Moyes had to try something different. Louis Saha’s injury ruled him out of contention while Jermaine Beckford’s taste of top flight football has, so far, left Everton’s hunger for goals unsatisfied and, until yesterday, Yakubu had been on the periphery. But Moyes called on the Nigerian after 69 minutes and the former Portsmouth forward entered his liveliest Everton performance in many months, perhaps forcing himself into the manager’s thoughts ahead of the visit of Newcastle United next Saturday. With Saha set to miss a few weeks at least, circumstance has given Yakubu an opportunity for a fresh start at Goodison Park and, after playing a thorough part in Everton’s late, late show, the early signs are the 27-year-old is ready to take it.
2 Hibbert – 6 Jagielka – 15 Distin – 3 Baines
10 Arteta – 5 Heitinga
21 Osman – 25 Fellaini – 20 Pienaar
69 – 22 Yakubu on for 5 Heitinga
69 – 23 Coleman on for 2 Hibbert