Sir Alex’s men failed to exact retribution on David Moyes’ Everton which had spectacularly clawed their way back last season to level with United and strike a lethal blow to their title defence last season, a blow that relinquished the title to City.
Everton continuously exploited United all throughout the game, while United failed to stamp their authority in the game and penetrate the resilient defence of the opposition. Time and again, Everton wreaked havoc on United’s defence, and if it weren’t for David de Gea’s extraordinary performances, United might have succumbed to quite a humiliating defeat.
Biggest Loser: Manchester United’s Defence
With Rio Ferdinand out with injury, defensive problems were rampant at the United camp, and Sir Alex was forced to use Michael Carrick at the center and Antonio Valencia at the right-back positions.
While both Carrick and Valencia have played at these positions, they are most effective whilst operating as a central midfielder and right winger respectively.
With Nani having a disappointing game yet again, United could have really used Valencia’s pace and skill on the ball for some penetration of the opposition defence.
The trio of Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar and Nikica Jelavic exploited United’s defence time and again. Antonio Valencia was caught out of position too many times, while Carrick’s positioning left a lot to be desired.
Biggest Winner: Marouane Fellaini
If there was one standout player in last night’s game, it was the Belgian Marouane Fellaini. The attacking-midfielder was simply magical last night.
In the 14th minute, Fellaini skipped past both Valencia and Carrick, but David de Gea managed to tip the ball towards the post. Throughout the first half, Fellaini and his colleagues looked threatening, and de Gea was called into action numerous times.
There was the Pienaar header around the 25th-minute mark which de Gea tipped over the bar, and in the space of two minutes, Pienaar and Fellaini tried their luck at de Gea’s goal but to no avail.
Leighton Baines, Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman, et al. all tried their chances.
Fellaini finally broke the deadlock in the 57th minute and gave Everton the deserved lead as he towered over Carrick and scored a sublime header.
For the rest of the match, the Belgian was sublime and left Goodison Park to a standing ovation to make way for Johnny Heitinga.
Loser: Sir Alex Ferguson
Luck was not on the side of Sir Alex Ferguson on Monday. Things did not go the way he would have liked. Injuries at defence meant Carrick and Valencia had to be deployed at defence.
Several of his players proved frustrating. Nani and his replacement Ashley Young were both abysmal. Especially the former proved frustrating, as he failed to create space and delivered wayward crosses.
Both Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney failed to deliver.
And when Robin van Persie was introduced, Everton had United all figured out; the Dutchman had little to work with—he often had to drop deep as the defence proved too resilient.
Antonio Valencia should have started at the right-wing. He was turned upside down in defence, and he offered very little in the offensive third. While Valencia is a capable right-back, he is a world-class winger, and deploying him out of his favoured position was certainly not the best option.
Shinji Kagawa, though, looked very lively and threatening. He showed intelligence on the ball, and Sir Alex should have been impressed with the Japanese’s debut in the EPL.
Winner: David de Gea
A few eyebrows were raised when Sir Alex dished out quite a pretty penny to sign the then Atletico Madrid keeper as a long-term replacement for Edwin van der Sar.
Some high-profile mistakes, coupled with Anders Lindegaard also performing superbly, led several to believe that David de Gea, while a capable keeper, might take much longer to adapt to the English game.
However, the game should have answered the sceptics.
Simply put, de Gea was superb against Everton. He made a multitude of saves to deny Everton, and if not for his incredible performance, United might have suffered a harrowing defeat.
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