Premier League Tactical Analysis: Everton 1-0 Manchester United

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Premier League Tactical Analysis: Everton 1-0 Manchester United
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Manchester United suffered their first defeat of the season in alarming fashion—failing to score against troublesome Everton at Goodison Park.

Everton's key players proved impossible to deal with, whilst United failed to get theirs into the most threatening of positions.

Let's break down the season's first Monday night exhibition.

 

Formations

Sir Alex Ferguson took a 4-2-3-1(ish) formation, while David Moyes retained his standard 4-4-1-1 shape.

 

Everton's approach

In the absence of Tim Cahill, Marouane Fellaini played "in the hole" behind Nikica Jelavic for Everton.

The central midfield four were narrow and tucked in so the full-backs could bomb forward, although neither Tony Hibbert nor Leighton Baines found much of an opportunity to stretch their legs.

Fellaini was the clear focal point, as nearly all offensive passes found their way to his chest. In total, he received a monumental 53 passes—most of which were 15 yards in distance or longer—as Everton forced themselves up the pitch quickly.

Due to this tactic, Jelavic was a non-factor in the game. Receiving just 19 passes hardly qualifies you as a target man and he was, quite simply, an 85-minute distraction.

 

Manchester United's approach

United took the formation most expected them to for the coming season, with two holding midfielders, an advanced midfield three and a lone striker.

Robin van Persie only made his debut from the bench, so it's tough to gauge what it will be like going forward, but this formation is workable with Wayne Rooney in midfield too.

The biggest surprise was Antonio Valencia's inclusion at right-back, but watching Rafael try to cope with both Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar is a sight that would make the kids cry, so the decision made sense.

 

The tussle

This was a tough, tough game for Manchester United. Goodison Park is always a stern test and, despite United's controlling stake in play (69 percent possession), they simply couldn't break down the Everton-shaped wall in front of goal.

As United advanced late in the game, Moyes' side stuck to two banks of four—and occasionally five if Fellaini was back—and stifled the game in a Roy Hodgson-esque fashion.

How do you break such organisation down? Isn't that why United signed Kagawa? Well, yes, but with Phil Jagielka playing like a man possessed, it's difficult no matter what personnel you have.

On the contrary, Everton relied on just one man to kill off their opponents. He gave them problems in the 4-4 draw at Old Trafford last season, and Fergie still hasn't worked out how to deal with him.

Fellaini, when on form, is a God amongst men. He hit the post, he scored a goal, he created several chances for others and bettered Nemanja Vidic in the air all game.

 

Conclusion

Although obviously not ideal, there were plenty of encouraging signs for United fans to take from this game. They're playing the right formation, they've got the right personnel and they've grasped the right style of football.

They would have won this game comfortably had it not been for a Karl Rappan-inspired Jagielka, but credit where credit's due—Fellaini, Moyes and Everton were incredible.


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