Manchester United’s season got off to a bad start as the Reds succumbed 1-0 to Everton at Goodison Park. Marouane Fellaini headed the winner after 57 minutes and not even the introduction of new signing Robin Van Persie with 23 minutes to play was enough to give United a way back into the contest.
Despite all the talk being about Van Persie since he joined from Arsenal in a £24m move, the Dutchman started on the bench as Sir Alex Ferguson chose Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney up front, supported by a midfield comprising Paul Scholes, Tom Cleverley, Nani and debutant Shinij Kagawa.
Valencia and Carrick were makeshift defenders in a back four completed by Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra. Everton started brightly, outmuscling United in midfield and coming close with Fellaini and Jelavic. The former shrugged off Carrick down the left flank before rattling De Gea’s near post, the latter forced a good save from the Spaniard.
United’s reply was in a well struck freekick from Rooney that was palmed away by Tim Howard, before Nani’s effort whistled away from the post. With 32 minutes gone Pienaar forced an excellent save from De Gea with a curling effort, before Rooney saw his effort well parried by Howard at the other end. United’s midfield looked good going forward but suffered Everton’s size and strength and De Gea was superb again to deny Osman and Baines just before halftime.
Everton started the second half on the front foot with Pienaar rattling the bar after a flick on from Fellaini. The Belgian then climbed above Michael Carrick to net the winner after yet again exposing United’s lack of physicality at the back. Everton then basically gave up playing, inviting United on but the Reds could only muster one clear chance as Cleverley’s effort was cleared by Jagielka and not even the introduction of Van Persie, Young and Anderson for Welbeck, Nani – at his frustrating best – and Cleverley could change the tide. Not the start United wanted, but there were some positives nevertheless – Kagawa looks an exciting prospect, Cleverley played well and having Vidic back is a bonus.
Titles aren’t won in August but United better get back on track as early as Sunday as they host Fulham.
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