Pienaar 39, Cahill 90, Arteta 90
MANCHESTER UNITED 3
Fletcher 43, Vidic 47, Berbatov 66
Manchester United threw away two points for the second consecutive Premier League away fixture as Everton fought back for a 3-3 draw at Goodison Park.
The teams prepared to face off on Saturday lunchtime with only one recognised striker between them and Wayne Rooney’s absence the talking point before the action.
It was soon forgotten in an entertaining affair that the Red Devils dominated for the most part. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side held off the Toffees’ bright start of sustained pressure and answered the home side’s first-half goal with two strikes of their own either side of half-time to seemingly put the tie to bed.
United’s lines of midfield and defence were set up to perfectly neutralise both the danger from set-pieces Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill posed and the tricky inter-play their selection of midfielders could produce. Within 15 minutes, Everton’s strengths became their weaknesses, United more times than most stopping attacks and exposing both Everton’s lack of a plan B and their frailties on the counter-attack.
Luis Nani and Dimitar Berbatov continued their bright starts to the season and despite some wasted half-chances at the end and the occasional over-delay in possession we have come to see from the pair, they both performed admirably. Nani in particular had showcased a more intelligent side to his game, consistently tracking back as well as providing two top-class crosses from his favoured wide-right position for the first two goals.
Some unfair criticism from the television commentators over his decision-making in the closing stages going forward may distract from an overall performance of a much higher level from the Portuguese winger, and indeed where his fail-points actually were in the contest. Criticism can instead be aimed on his absence from the right-wing in stopping both crosses for the two late goals and it serves as another harsh lesson for the player to take on after an otherwise promising effort.
However, again it was more than just down to Nani for the manner of the goals conceded, three to add to the two they gifted Fulham three weeks ago. The team played well, but fell apart with individual faults. Patrice Evra continues his unsure start to the campaign, this time with a questionable decision to attempt a bicycle-kick backfiring. It allowed Everton to break on United and score, with only Gary Neville and Paul Scholes tracking back, outnumbered and outpaced.
At the same time, Jonny Evans and Nemanja Vidic again also managed to forget their solid 90-minute displays between them for the sake of losing Cahill in the last-gasp melees that ensued in their penalty area as the game entered stoppage time. Vidic had also lost Brede Hangeland at Craven Cottage for his equalising header for Fulham despite his otherwise good performance.
The fixture list presents an ideal opportunity for the players to prove to the fans that they were unfortunate to have paid such a high price for recent mistakes. Then again, with such errors still in their play, Rangers and more so Liverpool are not ideal impending opponents.
1 van der Sar
2 G. Neville – 15 Vidic – 23 J. Evans – 3 Evra
24 Fletcher – 18 Scholes – 22 O’Shea
17 Nani – 9 Berbatov – 11 Giggs
81 – 13 Park on for 3 Evra