Drawing conclusions and delivering verdicts with December only four days old can be an extremely short-sighted, impulsive and irrational exercise but bar a minor miracle United surrendered their chances to retain their Premier League title tonight.
Even more worryingly, considering the way things have disconsolately panned out so far this season, it could be a long, long time, before we get the chance to challenge for the title again, for, quite plainly, United are simply not good enough. Not this season, not, perhaps, anymore, unless some drastic measures are taken to improve a squad that needs reinforcements with desperate urgency.
This might sound like a knee-jerk reaction, but is far from being so. That is a privilege that can be left to those who, last summer, belittled Moyes even before he took charge and labelled as clueless fans who had the audacity – how dare they! – to suggest that, perhaps, the squad that had lifted the title last May needed some tweaking, because the greatest manager British football has ever seen had papered over the cracks for too long.
Moyes, undoubtedly, will have to answer many questions and is likely to come under extremely intense criticism, after a first defeat at home against Everton in 20 years. Some of the criticism might be justified, some will surely be over the top and, strange though as it might sound, tonight has probably come as a relief for the United manager.
After months of fluctuating between the “not good at all” and the “marginally good, but not as good as they should be” United were exposed for what they’re: a side that, bar a drastic turnaround in form, will struggle to finish in the top six this season, let alone challenge for the title, despite having lifted the Premier League trophy last season.
What will hurt even more is the notion that, despite a spirited 15-minute spell in the second half, United deserved to lose tonight, for Everton arrived at Old Trafford showing the attacking intent and purpose teams are increasingly becoming willing to display at Old Trafford, as Southampton and West Brom had highlighted earlier this season.
Under Roberto Martinez the Toffees have become a better side than they were under Moyes, while United have seemingly regressed at an alarming fast pace, the light signalling their attacking intent flashing only seldom, while large parts of the game are spent toiling away, with an almost non-existent midfield trying to support unimaginative wingers.
Following Sunday’s draw at Spurs, Moyes deployed the same line-up, with the exception of Marouane Fellaini and Ryan Giggs replacing Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones, while Rafael returned to the starting XI, with Chris Smalling moving at centre-back alongside Nemanja Vidic, with Jonny Evans rested ahead of Saturday.
Both keepers were called into action in the first 15 minutes, with David De Gea palming Kevin Mirallas’ shot over the bar and former Red Tim Howard denying Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa at the other end, before haplessly watching on as Rooney’s deflected shot hit the post on the half hour mark.
De Gea repelled Romelu Lukaku’s shot, before Danny Welbeck was whiskered away from converting Kagawa’s shot, which would have painted their contribution in a much more noble way, given that both the England international and the Japanese were utterly anonymous for large parts of the match.
United’s positive verve seemed to run out early in the second half as Fellaini – who had been excellent in the first 45 minutes – and Giggs were overrun by Everton’s midfield, before Moyes showed remarkable boldness by introducing Nani and Adnan Januzaj for Kagawa and Rafael, with the young Belgian testing Howard from long range.
The American was again at his best as he denied Patrice Evra from a corner, only for Welbeck to see his tap-in crashing against the bar, before Mirallas’ free-kick struck the post with De Gea beaten, as United looked to hang on for a draw – in itself, a damning indication of how the mighty have fallen – before Antonio Valencia fell asleep at the back post, allowing Brian Oviedo to slot home a famous winner for the visitors.
It was inevitable, as inevitable as the transition between a glorious past and an uncertain present. Both, however, hurt incredibly.
Related items from Red Rants:
Tags: Match Reports