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Nevermind Madrid, United have learnt Everton lesson

952308-15663592-640-360Pessimism is a feeling rarely associated with a positive approach to crucial moments, being them part of professional or personal life, let alone with a football match that could prove to be a pivotal factor in the equation of a season. Pessimism was indeed very palpable in many United fans today, wary of the necessity to make the most of the defeat suffered by City yesterday, while the importance and the implications of a trip to Madrid on Wednesday loomed large on the horizon.

Having hinted at the possibility of rotating his squad ahead of their first leg in the round of 16 in the Champions League, Sir Alex Ferguson had fans worried that United could indeed let the opportunity to stretch the gap slip and, perhaps, spark another City comeback.

Such doubts were soon quashed as United kept rotation to a minimum, with Giggs and Phil Jones coming in in midfield, Rio Ferdinand rested and Michael Carrick initially on the bench. The Stretford End welcomed the teams on the pitch, unveiling a tribute flag to the late Busby Babes, who were then honoured with a standing ovation in later in the game, a reminder that at United the future is very much built on the past’s solid foundations.

Everton had derailed United’s title quest last April, two goals in the last eight, mad, minutes blowing the wheels off United’s challenge, the last chapter in a series of performances that have seen the blue half of Merseyside emerge as United’s bogey side in recent years.

It wasn’t to be this time. City’s defeat at Southampton will remain the weekend’s only shock-result in the race for the 2013 Premier League title, for United set out from the start with the verve of a side determined to seize their opportunity as much as to quash last April’s demons.

With ten minutes played, Wayne Rooney’s pass found Robin Van Persie but the Dutchman, having brilliantly danced around Tim Howard, found his right-footed effort repelled by the post. Three minutes later, the former Arsenal man turned provider, outfoxing Heitinga in the box before squaring the ball back to Ryan Giggs.

The Welshman, who made his United debut against Everton, controlled the ball with his left foot before cooling slotting home with his right, the post helping the ball past Tim Howard to give United the lead and extending Giggs’ record of consecutive league seasons marked with a goal to 23.

Surfer Busby Babes FlagPhil Jones excelled in keeping Marounane Fellaini quiet, United had too often surrended inches and kilograms to the Belgium in previous encounters againtst Everton, adding another voice to ever growing choir that wants the youngster deployed as a defensive midfielder rather than as a centre-back, but his defensive work-rate left Tom Cleverley too isolated at times, allowing the visitors to grow into the game midway through the first half.

Leon Osman called David De Gea into action with a sweetly struck dipping shot, before United were forced to sustain a spell of pressure which saw Everton piling balls in the box, however without mustering a concrete chance.

On the stroke of halftime, Rafael’s pass found Van Persie presenting him with a carbon copy of his earlier chance, but the  Dutchman this time went a step better, rounding Howard before cooling placing the ball in the back of the net despite Heitinga’s desperate attempt to clear off the line.

Having blown a two-goal lead in April, United’s set out with impeccable professionalism in the second half, controlling the game with ease as Everton failed to take a grip on the game. Carrick replaced Phil Jones, whose excellent defensive work on Fellaini came to an end as he hobbled off the pitch, before Tim Howard produced to superb saves in quick succession to deny Jonny Evans and Tom Cleverley, whose volley would have been a worth winner of the Goal of the Month Award.

Van Persie failed to add to his tally as he dragged his shot wide, before De Gea produced his second save of the game to deny Jelavic after Smalling had mis-controlled the ball seconds after replacing Jonny Evans.

While nobody at Old Trafford will take the gap as decisive, 12 points are starting to shape as the sort of insurance policy United need if they’re to reclaim their crown. But that will have to wait, for now it’s time to focus on nine-time Champions League winners Real Madrid. And a certain Portuguese number 7.


Dan (@MUFC_dan87)



  1. Opti

    February 10, 2013 at 10:45 pm


    Madrid (R16)
    Juventus (QF)
    Bayern (SF)
    Barca (F)

    You’re welcome!

    • Opti

      February 11, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      @Opti: I am sensing we can beat Madrid in Madrid. 2-1… two quick goals from United and then we defend for our lives… I can see it happening.

      Ronaldo’s freekicks should be taken care of by De Gea’s amazing shot-stopping skills. Not worried there. Main worry is our RB/LB being out of position… they will eat us alive if Evra/Rafael loses his head and doesn’t focus enough.

      SO EXCITED!!! RvP and Rooney to lead United to the Promise Land!!!

  2. JARaven

    February 11, 2013 at 1:18 am

    Rafael had an outstanding game. Ball over the top for Valencia to open up the first goal, through ball after a body swerve for RvP for the second. Solid defensive effort. MotM except he didn’t have a goal. Is Jones the defensive mid/enforcer we have been looking for or do we need someone else who is more confident in possession?

    • Redrich

      February 11, 2013 at 2:49 am

      @JARaven: MF gave away possession away a lot today but had a very strong defensive work ethic. They chased back, even the front line put in an admiral defensive shift and it bailed us out of a ton of awkward situations.
      So, clearly, yes, we need a MF general that’s better than PJ. Someone that has steel, vision and passion. I think SAF has been on the lookout ever since Keane blew his head gasket and just maybe, one day, he’ll surprise us with a gem.

  3. Redrich

    February 11, 2013 at 2:37 am

    What a great professional performance by the lads. They nixed our nemesis, Fellani, and proved that they CAN put in a good defensive shift when they put a mind to it.
    RVP not very sharp today, but still, he’s a complete handful playing off the last shoulder – what a nightmare he must be for CB’s and what a boost he is for our offensive corps.
    One down and now next is Madrid, the litmus test for our CL fortunes, and then on to securing a place in the FA Cup quarters with, which seem like a comfy home tie against Reading.

    Sweet dreams you faithful.

  4. johnsom33

    February 11, 2013 at 9:16 am

    I dont understand how people still think this isnt a very good United Side.

    RVP, Rooney, Chicha and Welbeck give us the best strikeforce in the world. Period.

    Our midfield is quality just not eye popping. Carrick is world class and cleverly and Anderson(when fit) have proved to be good just not world class midfielders. Not to mention we havent even fully figured out how to use Kagawa yet.

    We are stocked full of quality wingers Nani, Valencia and Young are all world class when on form. Admittedly they all have been plague with inconsistancy this season, but when on form they are world class.

    Which brings me to the much aligned defense. We have struggled with injuries but Evans,Rio,Vidic and Smalling are all top defenders. Evans has quietly become one of the best CB’s in the league. Evra has rediscovered his mojo and has drastically improved his end product. Rafael has improved beyond measure and is arguably the best RB in the league and closing in fast on Alvez spot in the brazil set up.

    De Gea is already one of the best GK’s in the league and he is still a baby. Look at howlers made by Hart and Reina recently and you will see that De Gea gets unfairly criticized. Look at the uproar over his punch against spurs which he was slaughtered for, then look at the comical mistake Hart made for the second goal on saturday.

    Are we all watching the same team, or are people just reading newspaper articles? It seems like with so many “united in decline” articles in the past 4-5 years that writers have to continually find new ways to explain how wrong they are. This current team is criminally underrated and even when they do blow away the competition, people blame it on poor competition. Its a joke really when you consider most pundits said it would be between Citeh and Chelsea.

    • Moscow

      February 11, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      @johnsom33: The midfield is not quality. Thank the footballing gods that Michael Carrick hasn’t been injured.

      We have the best strike partnership in the world and a winning mentality, that is what keeps us at the top.

  5. The_Philosopher

    February 11, 2013 at 9:27 am

    If Ryan Giggs were ever to be convicted of doping would we be docked points?

  6. johnsom33

    February 11, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Dont look now but 7m for Bebe is looking more and more reasonable. He put in another man of the match performance and his solo goal looked pretty good. If he keeps playing this way I could see us atleast breaking even on the transfer.

  7. The_Philosopher

    February 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    “for now it’s time to focus on nine-time Champions League winners Real Madrid. And a certain Portuguese number 7.”

    And his ‘Special’ Portugese manager.

  8. The_Philosopher

    February 12, 2013 at 7:52 am

    Its Tuesday morning. The Champion’s league clash with Real Madrid looms large.

    The clash of the titans is only 37 odd hours away now.

    The whole world is gearing up for one football’s greatest matches.

    I wonder how serious Sir Alex is about winning the champion’s league. Are his efforts and attentions consumed by the Barclay’s Premier League and setting right a title battle that was settled last season on goal difference?

    Or is he just as determined to bag one final champions league trophy before calling time on his illustrious career?

    Is he quietly pursuing one last treble?

    There is almost no obstacle that is insurmountable to Sir Alex Ferguson. Thats why we love him so much.

    I really hope this is the year we do another treble. It would be fitting for a man of his legend.

  9. RM

    February 12, 2013 at 9:13 am

    To all the scums that think they are the best in EPL,

    Tomorrow, Madrid will shatter your dream with the UCL. I’m truly sorry to say this, but the best you can do is to win the EPL title. The Champions League has no place for mediocre teams from the EPL. In the round of 8, I’m sure there will be no pests (teams from EPL) left.

    After all, EPL is just an overrated league. Great teams from Spainish, Germany, and Italy sides will give you an unforgettable football lessons like Barca did in 2009 and 2011.

    Can you handle the disappointment?

    • Ian

      February 12, 2013 at 9:48 am

      Have you ever won a treble?

    • fahime shuhaime

      February 12, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      @RM: So the mediocre and overrated team such as Manchester United is managed to be in the final of UCL in 2009 and 2011 like you just said? Wow!!!

    • Opti

      February 12, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      @RM: El Moron! You’re a troll.

      There is no team in Europe that does not wish it was Manchester United. Only Madrid and Barca can claim financial superiority, but they sit on unique and exclusive TV deals that render La Liga meaningless year after year — they are unsustainable.

      “Mediocre” Manchester United are the worlds most valuable brand and look set to win their #20 league title. They blend youth with experience and world class players to achieve long-term success on and off the field — unlike anyone but Barca.

      Also, that you mention Italian and German sides… is just funny. What have they achieved in the last 10 years? Besides corruption scandals? Mourinho’s Inter? How is that team faring?

  10. Stephen

    February 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    RM, aren’t a mediocre English team the current holders of the Champions League?

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