It wasn’t a happy homecoming for David Moyes as Manchester United were put to the sword by his former side Everton at Goodison Park. United dominated possession for lengthy periods throughout the game but lacked penetration in the final third and were undone by a clinical performance from the Toffees. First half goals from Leighton Baines (penalty) and Kevin Mirallas were enough to keep Everton’s top 4 dreams alive while confirming once and for all that United won’t be rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite next season.
The champions dominated possession in the opening stages but while they passed the ball well, looked listless in attack and bereft of invention. Everton were happy to sit deep and hit United on the counter attack and looked dangerous when they ventured forward, the swashbuckling Seamus Coleman running Alexander Buttner ragged all afternoon. The Merseysiders used the long ball to great effect and United’s defence got their first warning when Lukaku cushioned a header into the path of Steven Naismith only for the Scot to blaze his shot high and wide. Soon after Kagawa was dispossessed on the edge of the Everton area and a long Ross Barkley ball found Naismith and launched a counter attack. Naismith fed Lukaku who cut onto his left foot and saw his shot blocked by the hand of Phil Jones. Penalty. Baines, the man long courted by Moyes and United, stepped up and sent his spot kick straight down the middle of the goal. After the goal Everton were once again happy to cede possession to the away side but United offered little but sterile domination. That Everton had 8 attempts on goal compared to United’s 2 (zero on target) in the first half was a stark reflection of what the sides offered in attack. Everton doubled their advantage before the break, again in a counter attacking move, Coleman played a slide rule pass into Mirallas who found the bottom corner with unerring accuracy.
United were out sent out early after half time following what could prove to be David Moyes’ last team talk, but the game followed the same pattern as the first half. While Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa often linked up well, there was no end product for their endeavours. Too often United were camped outside the Everton penalty area but lacked the cutting edge to threaten Tim Howard’s goal. Wayne Rooney captained his side against his former employers but suffered a frustrating afternoon. He was presented a chance early in the half but dwelled on the ball, took one touch too many and was dispossessed. He was thwarted by Howard in United’s only real opening of the match, the keeper rushing from his line to block Rooney’s effort. Everton soaked up the possession and looked dangerous going forward, Naismith missing two good chances to make it 3-0. Moyes rung the changes and introduced Valencia, Hernandez and Welbeck but they could do little to prevent Everton completing their first double over United since 1970.
Roberto Martinez, like he had against Arsenal, got his tactics spot on and out thought his predecessor with his team’s set up. United now sit six points behind Tottenham in sixth place and are facing the prospect of no European football next season.