When speaking about past visits to Manchester United, David Moyes famously said “you just wanted to get out of Old Trafford alive”. If he is lucky, he may just get his wish, because Everton under the quite brilliant management of Roberto Martinez struck a significant blow in Moyes’ attempts to successfully succeed Alex Ferguson. With the triumphant Blues leaving the Theatre of Dreams with their own aspirations of Champions League football intact, Moyes was left contemplating a first season in Manchester which is fast becoming a genuine nightmare.
Conversely Roberto Martinez appears to be hell-bent on keeping his promises. During his interview for the Everton manager’s job, he promised Bill Kenwright he would deliver Champions League football, Everton appear on track to deliver, sitting well placed in fifth and with only one league defeat to their name. Prior to last night’s encounter with Manchester United, he promised a positive attacking display, in which Everton would remain true to his footballing principles; he certainly delivered as the Blues produced a performance that left every Evertonian beaming with immense pride and joy as the Toffees rewrote the record books to record a first victory at Old Trafford for 21 years.
Whether or not Manchester United have lost an element of the fear factor that has made them the dominant side in English football for over two decades, they still remain a top team and to beat the best teams you need every player to produce a performance of quality. Right throughout the Everton side, everyone played exceptionally well. Tim Howard was outstanding in the Everton goal, denying Rooney, Evra and Januzaj with brilliant athletic saves. The back four, although slightly panicked at times, were marshalled by the superb Jagielka and when the Everton midfield placed an element of control on the match, the defence demonstrated how quickly they have adapted to the Martinez approach by calmly and comfortably joining in with the Blues’ possession game.
Perhaps Martinez’ most significant moment so far in the Everton hot seat was the August deadline day. Not only did he secure the signing of a top class striker in Lukaku, he made two midfield additions that have ensured the Blues have made a step up from past years under Moyes. Gareth Barry brought his years of experience and his big game mentality to bring a semblance of control to proceedings, but it was the man alongside him who stole the man of the match plaudits. James McCarthy is rapidly becoming one of the best midfield players to have worn the Blue shirt for quite some time. His effervescent running and skilful passing are making his £13m price tag look a relative snip and if he remains free of injury he can reach untold heights in the remainder of his career, remember he is only 23 years old.
Everton appear spoilt for choice further forward, with Mirallas, Duelofeu, Barkley and Pienaar all competing for three regular places in the team. The first three all offer the fantastic quality of lightning pace and have added an ingredient that has often been missing from Everton sides, the ability to counter attack. On Wednesday night Everton often surged forward, taking advantage of the gap between the United midfield and defence to put de Gea’s goal under threat. Although Barkley’s final ball let him down, his effortless running with the ball made Moyes’ decision to banish him from the team for much of the last two years, look a complete mystery.
When the goal did arrive, deep into the match, it arrived from a surprise source, but Bryan Oviedo, who worked tirelessly on the night and has remained patiently in the shadow of Leighton Baines for the last 15 months, certainly deserved the plaudits that will follow. Lukaku’s miss hit shot rolled across the front of goal and into the path of the cool, calm and collected Costa Rican who slotted the ball past the United keeper to send the Evertonians delirious with unbridled joy.
This certainly wasn’t a smash a grab, Everton had pushed United throughout the 90 minutes and defeat for Roberto’s men would have been a cruel blow. The Blues were brave and positive and played with a freedom that was born from the manager’s determination to break the hoodoo away at the big four. With a win at Old Trafford secured, the Blues now travel to top of the table Arsenal, where unbelievably Everton have an even worse record. It is time to right another wrong!
Team: Howard; Oviedo, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin; Barry, McCarthy; Pienaar (Osman), Barkley (Deulofeu), Mirallas (Naismith); Lukaku