United started the game with three changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Tottenham as Rafael, Marouane Fellaini and Ryan Giggs all start. Robin van Persie missed out again with a groin injury so Rooney and Welbeck started up front. Rafael also returned, however the midfield pairing of Marouane Fellaini and Ryan Giggs looked weak on paper.
Everton started the game on the front foot looking very lively and starting with a high tempo. Lukaku had the first effort of the game with a long range shot going tamely wide. They looked dangerous on the break and had a three on three early on but good defending by Vidic blocked a shot from Lukaku out for a corner. From the resulting corner they retained the ball and Mirallas force De Gea into a save for another corner. United couldn’t keep hold of the ball but some good one touch passing drew Everton into a foul on Kagawa and the pressure was released. For now…
United had looked like the away side in the opening 10 minutes and really need to get a hold of the game. They finally had a spell of possession and could see how Everton were setup to deal with them. Everton were dropping men behind the ball but not too deep, every time a forward pass was played the players were chasing United down and not giving them time to settle on the ball. They look full of energy under Martinez.
United’s quality on the ball began to shine through and after an over hit cross by Rafael, and some good work by Evra, Rooney found himself in space and forced a fantastic near post save from Tim Howard. The game was becoming very open with both teams looking dangerous going forward. Patrice Evra stood his ground and made a brilliant standing tackle to dispossess Seamus Coleman when he was bearing down on the Frenchman inside the box.
The right back was looking dangerous again minutes later, a lovely through ball was played to him and he left Evra for pace. His cross across the 6 yard box was good but no Everton player was able to collect. At the other end Kagawa found himself in on goal when clearly offside, the flag didn’t go up and Howard made another good save from his close range shot. Uniteds best chance came from the head of the oldest man on the pitch. Giggs’ glancing header almost found the near post from a Rafael corner, agonizingly wide.
Lukaku ‘The Beast’ was bullying United’s defenders off the ball, he nicked it off Evra in a great position high up the pitch. He looked up to see two team mates free in the area but couldn’t get the ball past Chris Smalling. His intervention stopped what probably would have been a goal. The game was thrilling to atch with both teams playing flowing attacking football. United came within a whisker of taking the lead! Wayne Rooney did well to make some space on the edge of the box but his shot was tame, it took a fortunate deflection and left Tim Howard wrong footed. He could only watch on as the ball trickled towards the goal but fortunately for him came off the post.
United were in the ascendancy now with Everton scrambling to clear their lines. Everton could not get the ball away and wave after wave of United attack was bombarding them. United needed to score whilst having this good spell. Evertons defending was resolute. Lukaku, who had been a real thorn in the side so far came to Uniteds rescue, nicking the ball away from Barkley when he was winding up to hit a shot from the edge of the area. Barkley showed his talents again minutes later, shrugging off a strong challenge from Fellaini and hitting a shot towards the top corner that went just wide.
After all United’s good work they almost went 1-0 down. Lukaku again, showing he has a bit of trickery on him, did a few step overs and unleashed a shot that was well saved by De Gea. The ball came back out to an Everton player who crossed for Barley but United managed to put in a great challenge and clear. Everton missed a brilliant chance seconds later when 3 on 2 Barkley over hit the pass to Lukaku when is seemed easier to play him in on goal. United AGAIN came incredibly close, a great run by Kagawa got in behind the defence and his ball across the face of goal aluded everyone, including nutmegging Wayne Rooney. How this game was 0-0 at half-time i will never know! An incredibly open an entertaining match of football.
United began the second half with a cracking shot from Patrice Evra. It was heading for the top corner but Tim Howard did well to save. Just like the first half the ball made its way back to the other end, Barkley force a corner as Smalling but out a cross. If Barkley would have got his head up he would have seen Mirallas free on the edge of the area for a cut back. More chances followed, a blocked volley from Fellaini and a Lukaku curling effort blocked. Lukaku is an unbelievable player, i’ve seen another side of his game tonight. His passing has been outstanding as he has dropped deep to receive the ball and bring the midfield into play.
Nice to see United making a positive change early on, Moyes was determined to get the win and brought on Nani and Januzaj for Rafael and Kagawa. Three at the back? This really was a must win game, any more dropped points at home and its going to be very difficult to challenge for the title. United were clearly sacrificing cover at the back in an attempt to find an opening for the opening goal. As a result the game was becoming even more open. Nani looked very lively but was trying to do too much himself. He needed to link up with Rooney and find the pockets of space Kagawa was in the first half.
Thats Rooney out of the Newcastle game, god i hope RVP is back. He can probably count himself lucky to be on the pitch. As Rooney goes in for the ball he turns himself away from Jagielka and leaves his shoulder in to hit his face. A tell tale sign of frustration from Rooney.
A breathtaking 5 minutes of football followed. Firstly a Januzaj penalty appeal isnt given when he is clearly taken down in the box, stonewall for me. Everyon sub straight for Barkley then hit straight at De Gea from an angle. Januzaj picked himself up and made a mazy run but his long range shot was saved. Unbelievable! Tim Howard’s makes a point blank save from Evra’s bullet header from a corner, Welbeck can only head the ball onto the bar with the goal gaping. Rooney then smashes the ball over with a wild volley moments later after Vidic was blocked off in the box and United’s appeal for a penalty goes unnoticed. You get the feeling its not going to be United’s night when so much goes against you in a short period of time.
Nani and Januzaj were making a real impact on the game and were delivering brilliant crosses into the area but no United players were there too finish. This game is absolutely set up for a Chicharito poachers goal, get him on for Danny Moyes! Since the change Everton piled on the pressure, first a fantastic save from from De gea from a free kick. He couldn’t do anything about the goal however. Lukaku again with fantastic feet to whip in a low cross from the right hand side, Oviedo was completely unmarked and ran in to slide home the goal.
The game finished 1-0 to Everton, in what was a poor performance from United all-in-all. Saturday’s game against Newcastle just became much more important.