Moyes suffers yet another humiliation
Everton 2 Manchester United 0
When the fixture list was released, Manchester United's freshly appointed manager will have wondered where he might be when he once more paced Goodison's familiar corridors.
David Moyes cannot have imagined that at the climax of the most engrossing Premier League season in years he would have reduced the champions of England to a state of total irrelevance.
Tellingly, this was the first time that Everton had done the double over Manchester United since 1969-70. That was their first season after Matt Busby had retired, when Old Trafford was in the hands of a good football man who was inadequate to the vast task he had been given. When United's players were assembled to be told that Wilf McGuinness had been sacked, Brian Kidd turned to the rest of the squad and yelled: "You bastards, you let him down."
Whatever Moyes' failings as the helmsman of one of the biggest sporting institutions in the world, his players have let him down lamentably. Every one of them must have known how much this game meant to their manager and yet they turned in a performance that was beyond limp. This was their 11th defeat of the season and it was by a distance the worst.
Just as referee Mark Clattenburg prepared to blow the final whistle, which to Manchester United ears would have sounded like a mercy killing, the Gwladys Street End began singing that Moyes would be "sacked in the morning". He will not.
He will be allowed to stagger on, bleeding, into the summer, talking about reconstruction without providing any evidence of what a Moyes Manchester United might look like.
The sadness is that this game will have mattered so much to Moyes and his family. He is deeply embedded in the fabric of Goodison Park.
"The People's Club," the phrase he used to describe Everton on the day a dozen years ago he inherited an institution that was drifting towards relegation, are written in letters many feet high on the side of the Main Stand.
On the timeline of photographs that flows around the outside of Goodison, Moyes appears no fewer than six times. He cannot be erased from Everton's history and in time the ovation he received in May when saying farewell to Goodison, on what seemed like an independence day of sorts, will be the true measure of his worth.
This was not the time and, if Moyes did not receive the torrent of abuse he anticipated, he had to put up with someone dressed as the Grim Reaper waving what you hoped was an imitation scythe in his direction.
It was not believed to be a member of the Glazer family who had authorised a cheque for £28m to bring Marouane Fellaini to Old Trafford on transfer deadline day, a move that had soured relations between Moyes and Everton.
At the fag end of a season in which his reputation, especially in games at Old Trafford, has withered, Fellaini was considered good enough only for the bench. At Goodison, his presence, like his hairstyle, seems like a throwback to another era.
Manchester United are playing like it is 1970 all over again. They had plenty of possession but they did little with it. Their play was dreary, ponderous and, ultimately, unproductive. When he was told in the post-match press conference that possession without shots was pointless, Moyes agreed.
Everton simply cut them apart on the counter-attack, employing the kind of pace that is completely absent from Moyes' team.
"Once we got 2-0 up it was a risky moment because you expected Manchester United to throw everything at you," said the Everton manager, Roberto Martinez.
"Tim Howard did make a world-class save from Wayne Rooney but that was in the 86th minute. Mostly, I was quite happy for them to have the ball."
For United, the first, fatal breakaway came in the 27th minute as Steven Naismith found Romelu Lukaku, whose shot was blocked by Phil Jones' arm as the United defender slipped. Had Clattenburg not been right up with play, the penalty might not have been awarded. Not since Joe Royle converted a spot-kick in 1972 had Everton scored a penalty against Manchester United.
Leighton Baines converted his by driving the ball into the dead centre of David de Gea's net.
With Alex Buttner providing completely inadequate cover for the injured Patrice Evra, the combination of Seamus Coleman and Kevin Mirallas was allowed to maraud down the Manchester United left with impunity. It was that pairing, played onside by Buttner, who combined for Everton's second, with Mirallas tucking his shot past an exposed De Gea. Another perfectly judged counter-attack in the second half should have produced a third but for a fabulous full-stretch save from De Gea to deny Naismith.
However many strikers Moyes threw on – and he finished with Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck – the midfield screen of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy strangled United's progress into the final third to the extent that their first shot on target arrived two minutes after the interval from Shinji Kagawa.
United's most threatening moment of the first half was Barry's very firm header back to his goalkeeper that, depending on where you were sat, was either very cool or very dangerous.
For a side that had lost shockingly and unexpectedly to Crystal Palace in midweek and that had just seen Arsenal cruise to a 3-0 win on Humberside, this was a considerable statement.
The odds are still that Everton will finish with the highest total of Premier League points without qualifying for the Champions League – the record is 72, set by Tottenham last year. Yet they will not give the race up.
Martinez joked that when he was overseeing Wigan's great escapes he stopped staring at the league table "because in the end it drives you mad". Moyes is likely to say the same.
(© Independent News Service)
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