Well disguised behind each manager’s soapy tit wank pre match preamble resided hidden jibes to the others perceived weakness.
First Moyes commented on Everton’s defensive strength this season which has seen us pick up the most clean sheets in the top flight ’ I always told them they could play without a manager because they are very well organised ‘ which is roughly translated to Martinez as ‘ you couldn’t organise a defence to save your life you decadent, lark lane mincing, brown brogue wearing latino ponce’.
Always keen to show that the pen is mightier than sword, Martinez responded with ‘“Over the last 10 years we have not beaten Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool at their grounds and we need to address that. We need to make sure we are ourselves. We need to know how we are going to play and who we are.” ‘ roughly translated to Moyes as ‘you’re a shit scared, dour, percentage football loving negative Scottish twat who’s getting sacked in March’.
Or maybe not.
But did any of this verbal jousting have any bearing on the game? Lets row through the key data;
Despite us starting the game better than our hosts, United came back into the match and shaded possession in the first half. Under Moyes United have attacked more down the right flank but statistically they did so more than usual here, perhaps targeting Bryan Oviedo who was starting an away match in the top flight at left back for the first time. As a reactive tactician, Moyes does of course love to target a perceived weak link in the opposition ranks.
As a result, United’s top passing combinations were all down the right with Smalling, Rafael and Valencia amongst the most frequent receivers of passes with Fellaini the main source from the right of central midfield. In the long run it would be United’s right side which would have a big impact on the outcome of the game.
This right sided offensive overload continued in the second half when Moyes – somewhat going against his substitutions policy at L4 - made an early double switch with Januzaj joining the action and becoming the main out ball on the right flank with winger Valencia pushed back to right back with both looking to overload Ovideo. The Costa Rican thus had to put up with incessant pressure throughout and as a result made the most tackles and fouls of any player on the pitch.
Like in the first half, we defended doggedly with clearances aplenty as is usually the case in this fixture, however the key differential between this and previous trips to Old Trafford was on the counter attack as the power of Lukaku – who gave Vidic some torrid moments – along with the drive of initially Barkley and later Deulofeu caused United no end of difficulty.
Often the final ball can be frustrating with the dynamic teenagers with Barkley in the first half guilty of a sloppy pass when we broke 3 v 2 and then after superb link play by Lukaku, Deulofeu shot straight at De Gea shortly after coming on. The fact that we created comfortably more chances from open play on United’s own patch (12 v 8) is testament to the expression and incision we now have to our game regardless of the opponent.
The goal followed a spell of Blues pressure with United and in particular the defensive left side of Vidic and Evra were increasingly showing signs of creaking. The heat began to get turned up a notch when Coleman presses well in United’s final third to pick Fellaini’s pocket before being downed rashly by Valencia.From the resulting free kick, Mirallas strikes the post but such is the amount of bodies we commit (as shown below) in United’s final third, we maintain possession.
After Deulofeu comes close to scoring following a jinking run, Oviedo’s over hit cross is then picked up Coleman down the right who plays in McCarthy.
McCarthy then picks out Jagielka (above) who finds Lukaku (below) who rolls Belgian colleague Fellaini but screws a shot away from De Gea’s right side following a deflection from the former toffee.
With Valencia caught ball watching, Oviedo is the only one who reacts to the shot and is able to wrap his foot around the ball to edge us in front.
Over the 90 minutes it was a fairly even game with United hitting the woodwork twice, slightly shading possession and during a couple of periods looked the more likely team to get the opening goal.
However, this game was all about our ability to counter attack with pace, power and ruthless incision. Ultimately we reaped the rewards for being positive and not hiding behind any ’knife to a gun fight’ repression – a mantra that has plagued our visits to the top clubs over the last 10 years.
With the sheer number of players we committed forward and the fact we created a lot more chances in open play (as the away side too) it was a richly deserved win which ended two decades of abject misery on this ground since a Warzycha inspired Everton romped to a 3-0 back in 1992.
For Moyes, the ultimate irony was that his not so customary attacking changes actually cost them a chance of a point and the defeat leaves him staring down the barrel of a gun in what is increasingly becoming a sticky Old Trafford wicket. Perhaps he should have just concentrated on getting out of their alive, and he’ll certainly need to call on all his powers of managing expectations if he is to survive the winter of discontent that is heading his way.