Analysis: Manchester United 2-0 Everton
In August, I analysed the Everton 1-0 defeat of Manchester United at Goodison, so I thought it would be nice to look at yesterday’s return fixture.
Ironically, I felt more positive about Sir Alex Ferguson’s team after that defeat than I do after this victory.
United’s opening game saw some delicious combinations between their attacking players, with Shinji Kagawa operating behind a lone striker and two inside forwards. It was a very modern set-up by Fergie, and I honestly thought it would be the beginning of a slightly more attractive style at Old Trafford. I also thought Kagawa was set to become the Premier League’s newest superstar.
Fast forward to February and The Kagawa-less Red Devil’s appear to be strolling to a comfortable victory in a two-horse race. Unfortunately, their formerly noisy neighbours have only three legs and are limping badly. What was billed as the most exciting season in Premier League history since 2011-12 is set for a somewhat anti-climactic finale, probably some time in March if current form continues.
So; Manchester United must be some team?
I’m not a believer.
You don’t have to be a great team to win the league. This is far from a great team.
The intricate exciting build up play witnessed in their first game has been replaced with sterile performance, after unconvincing win, after sterile performance.
Yesterday’s formation was not that of a forward thinking coach.
In the current climate of inverted wingers and players operating between the lines, United were a throwback. This was Mike Bassett-esque four, four, “fucking”, two at it’s most simplified.
On the right wing they had the archetypal ‘get down the line and cross it’ merchant, the ever predictable Antonio Valencia.
In central midfield, Michael Carrick was rested ahead of Real Madrid on Tuesday and the industry of Tom Cleverley was paired with the, ummm…… industry of Phil Jones. Jones is a defender, and clearly has huge difficulty receiving the ball in midfield.
They even had 1992′s championship winning left winger, Ryan Giggs make a return to his old role.
Is this all a criticism of their great manager? Not exactly. He has a way of playing that works for him. It’s just that despite being a Liverpool fan, I used to really enjoy watching United in the days of Cantona, and the treble winning team.
Possibly due to the average team having more quality than they had in those days, United are now merely efficient.
Yesterday they played at home to Everton. David Moyes’ team are excellent but their game is not based around passing for the sake of it.
A telling statistic shows that the home team made only 363 passes, with their visitors notching up 402.
The champions elect still crossed the ball more times than Everton. This is the Everton who are constantly looking for high balls to Marouane Fellaini.
The Belgian was the key in the first meeting. Carrick was used in central defence and Everton exploited him aerially.
With two recognised centre backs in this game, this ploy was attempted a lot less often. The diagrams below show the passes Fellaini received in both matches. Noticeably more long passes were successful ealier in the campaign.
This took away a lot of the menace The Toffees carried and they rarely looked likely to breach David De Gea.
There were three key players in this game for the hosts.
Rafael Da Silva is looking every inch the player he first promised to be. After a shaky couple of years, he is quickly becoming a big player for Ferguson.
Energetic and aggressive, he is also composed and clever on the ball, finding his way out of tight situations with his quality.
He found himself in a central position and slipped a beautiful through ball for the second goal which ended the game as a contest just before half time.
Ryan Giggs continues to defy age. The Welsh Wizard was still feverishly pressing the ball at 2-0 up in the 92nd minute. He still has the energy to do this because he doesn’t do anything without a reason on the pitch.
Yes he is in good condition considering his years. However, it is his exemplary decision making which has allowed him to remain at the pinnacle of the game for so many years.
When he was the recipient of a Robin van Persie pass in a crowded area, he calmly took the ball back across his body onto his weaker right foot and placed the ball precisely where he wanted it to go. Wonderfully taken goal.
And on to the reason United will be champions come May, and Arsenal fans are even more bitter than usual at the departure of a hero: RVP.
His deceptive pace was on evidence for both goals. He escaped the recently out of sorts Jonny Heitinga and latched onto a Valencia flick on before teeing up Giggs for the first.
Then his perfectly timed run saw him race away from Everton’s high defensive line before rounding Tim Howard. This was the second time in the game he’d left Howard in his wake. On the previous occasion, he uncharacteristically missed an open goal. He tried to repeat the feat but this time his weak finish was helped over the line by the hapless Heitinga, and three points were in the bag.
United were worthy winners of this at times limp contest, but they consistently fail to impress.
On Wednesday they face by far their sternest test of this term, with Jose Mourinho focused on Champions League glory this year, and Cristiano Ronaldo in perpetual incredible scoring form. I am waiting to be convinced.
As for Everton, on this evidence I would have to say a top four finish is highly unlikely.
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