Bad hair day for Marouane Fellaini and David Moyes
David Moyes said before kick-off that he expected a mixed reception from the fans of his previous club in this his first encounter with his old employers since he left for Manchester United. As it turned out, there was nothing mixed about it.
As the final whistle sounded on an excellent smash-and-grab victory by their side, all that could be heard from the Everton section at Old Trafford was the sound of unity. They chanted as one in the direction of their erstwhile hero: “You’re getting sacked in the morning.”
It had not been exactly convivial from the start, this reunion. When he stepped for the first time into his technical area soon after kick-off, Moyes was greeted by a round of booing from the visitors’ section.
This was followed swiftly by a chant of “David Moyes is full of s---”. And with that chorus of reacquaintance, 11 years of stalwart service were speedily consigned to history.
It is hard to pinpoint what has happened to change the mood in the months since the same Evertonians so warmly serenaded him at his last game in charge of the Merseyside club in May.
Surely they cannot be that upset about his buying Marouane Fellaini. The way the Belgian has played since his transfer to United, you would have thought they might have applauded their former manager for so generously taking him off their hands.
In what might be considered the very definition of commercial optimism, outside Old Trafford before this game the local swag workers were selling curly black wigs in Fellaini’s honour. Frankly it might have been more profitable in these parts selling Sergio Agüero ringtones.
Or Luis Suárez T-shirts. Three months into his career in Manchester and the former Everton favourite has yet to come close to capturing the imagination of the United public.
His performances so far have been static and unconvincing, sluggish and off the pace. He appears to have mastered the knack of never quite being in the right place at the right time, trundling on to the scene long after the action has moved on.
Even his mother might struggle to suggest he has been playing as he did in Everton blue.
Yet, indicative of the poverty of Moyes’s options, here he was once more starting for the reds.
With Michael Carrick still injured and Phil Jones suspended, against their mutual former employers Moyes deployed Fellaini alongside the ageless Ryan Giggs in centre midfield.
It was the perfect chance for the new boy to play his way into form. Here was a cause. Here was motivation. Especially since his every touch drew a chorus of cat calls from the visiting supporters. But in truth his detractors did not have to exercise their larynx too hard. Fellaini was invisible here, utterly ineffectual, the Nick Clegg of the United midfield.
Within the first quarter of an hour he had been out-thought by Gareth Barry, outfoxed by Ross Barkley and, despite being a good six inches taller, outjumped by Steven Pienaar. Poor Fellaini. This was another Mancunian night to forget. By contrast to his torpor, Everton’s central core oozed grit and invention.
The visitors’ midfield, anchored by Barry, a man considered surplus to requirements down the road at Manchester City, never looked remotely disturbed. Alongside him James McCarthy never stopped running, while Barkley’s ability to carry the ball forward with energy and purpose made everyone present think Moyes had bought the wrong Evertonian in the summer.
Panting in their wash, Fellaini never came close to running the game. Slow to the ball as ever he was horribly culpable in Everton’s late, late winner. Easily outwitted by Romelu Lukaku in the United area, he could only stand and watch as his fellow Belgian crossed for Bryan Oviedo to score at the far post. Cue delirium among the away fans and a gleeful chorus at their old manager’s expense.
And the thing is, no one in attendance could have been surprised. Everton’s win was entirely expected, entirely in keeping with the way the game had gone. And the fact is, after this performance Old Trafford’s street marketeers are going to have to be as imaginative as their counterparts outside Goodison if they want to shift what must be a growing backlog of Fellaini wigs. Faced with a sudden glut in stock when the midfielder upped sticks down the M62, the Everton tradesmen had simply reversed the items and sold them as Tim Howard beards.