If Roberto Martinez’s Premier League debut at Goodison Park fizzled out into a bit of a damp squib – a goalless draw with a robust West Brom – then the Everton manager has provided plenty of fireworks in his burgeoning war of words with his predecessor, David Moyes, regarding the potential transfer of Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United.
One of the defining images of Moyes’ early years at Everton was a touchline spat with Sir Alex Ferguson, celebrated at Goodison as Moyes giving as good as he got from the older Scot. They’ve yet to meet as opposing managers this season but Martinez has not couched his words and this could be his equivalent of the Moyes/Ferguson incident, a sign that Everton are not minded to step back when face-to-face – figuratively in this case – with a club used to getting their own way.
If the performance in Martinez’s first home game lacked a little inspiration then Martinez’s pointed comments on the Baines and Fellaini issue were positively Churchillian. One line in particular was a masterclass in spin. “…when you invest money in a player and five years later you get offered the same money…that becomes a little bit of a nonsense. As a new manager, I am following the structure we have at the football club. I heard in the past that Everton never sold cheap,” Martinez said. The past to which he refers is when Joleon Lescott moved from Everton to Manchester City, and he, and everyone else, heard it from Moyes himself.
Around the ground on Saturday the anti-Moyes feeling was clear, present and growing. Moyes is not due back at Goodison until April and by then the negativity may well have subsided; how the rest of the transfer window, and possibly January’s too, progresses will determine that. But as it stands Moyes’ 11 years taking Everton from the brink of relegation to the brink of the top four counts for little, a disappointing chapter written in the man’s history with a club he served so well.
As for the players themselves, Baines was his usual busy self but less of the play is going down the flank, limiting his involvement, and Fellaini again looked out of place in the heart of midfield. His sub-par showing has led to suggestions he already has his mind in Manchester but that’s harsh – firstly, he played much the same against Norwich before the latest bid was publically known, and has rarely looked the part in that position in his five years on Merseyside.
And secondly, Fellaini was much livelier as the game wore on and he was allowed to break forward. He looked far from uninterested in taking the ball on his chest and toe-poking an effort against the post. Had the ball crept over the line the perception of both Fellaini’s mindset and Martinez’s start would be much different. About as different as the perception of Moyes from the day he left to the low ebb it is today.
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