United's limitations exposed by Everton
Published 21/02/2010 | 05:00
Whatever Manchester United had established in the San Siro on Tuesday night was demolished at Goodison Park yesterday. Yet Goodison Park may be a harder place for a team to visit than the San Siro at the moment.
Everton once had a poor record against the big teams but not anymore. They were the first team to defeat Roberto Mancini's Manchester City but, more importantly, they have now beaten Chelsea and Manchester United in successive Premier League games.
In both games, Everton gave the superior side the lead but through a mixture of spirit and the technical ability that David Moyes has brought to the team, they have found their way back into games. Moyes' judgement has found the technical players but his fighting spirit has united them. In the transfer window he brought Landon Donovan in from LA Galaxy and yesterday he was one of a number of players who made United look ordinary.
Donovan went to Moyes yesterday morning and told him he was suffering from the 'flu and didn't think he could play. "I told him all British players play with the 'flu, although if you're coming from Los Angeles you probably don't know what the 'flu is," said Moyes.
The Scot hesitated, assessed the player with a keen eye as the squad made the way to the ground -- "He didn't look any worse than the others," -- and decided Donovan would play.
As United continued to give the ball away with Jonny Evans atrocious in defence and Michael Carrick playing to his normal level in the middle, Donovan was one of the players to whom the ball kept returning.
United's limitations were exposed again. They had taken the lead through Dimitar Berbatov, but United had few other options. Paul Scholes was back on the bench alongside Nemanja Vidic while Nani and Rio Ferdinand were suspended.
With the lead established, United must have expected victory and a return to the top of the table. Instead, within minutes, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov had equalised with a sweet strike and Everton had rediscovered their fight. "They were better than us to begin with, we were a little bit tentative and the goal came at the right moment," Moyes admitted.
Everton then began to play. Without Tim Cahill and Maro-uane Fellaini, Everton might have struggled to fight but their midfielders -- Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar and Mikel Arteta -- wouldn't give the ball away and they were more creative in their attacks than United.
"On our day we can match anyone," Moyes said afterwards and in the final 15 minutes, Everton did more than match United. Donovan and Pienaar combined to set up substitute Dan Gosling and then another sub Jack Rodwell burst through. With Evans making a desultory attempt to block, he drove past Van der Sar to guarantee the points.
In this mixed-up season, Everton are now being tipped as Champions League contenders. Moyes dismissed the idea but, with Chelsea now four points clear at the top after a 2-0 win at Wolves, it seems no more outlandish than United retaining their title.
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