A late goal from Bryan Oviedo ensured Manchester United manager David Moyes endured a painful first meeting with his former club on Wednesday evening. For the first time in 21 years, Everton claimed a win at Old Trafford, a hard-fought 1-0 victory.
Oviedo—left-back in the team only because of an injury to rumoured United target Leighton Baines—found himself unmarked in the box four minutes from time, and he turned home Romelu Lukaku’s low delivery at the near post to seal a memorable win for Roberto Martinez and his side.
Wayne Rooney hit the post in the first half and Danny Welbeck hit the post in the second, but Moyes can have few real complaints that his side were edged in what was an even contest throughout.
"I'm very disappointed," Moyes told the BBC. "We needed a bit of good fortune and we didn't get it. Everton kept at it and showed us what a good team they are.
"We didn't defend the goal well enough so it was our own doing. We had some chances as well, as did Everton. They have been playing well and that's why they are up near the top of the league."
"It was a big battle today," Martinez noted afterward. "As an away team, you normally feel you will have only one or two chances maximum. But with our ambition, we created many, many chances.
"If you look at the overall position we deserved all three points and that is an incredible statement."
United were once again without Robin van Persie, who may be fit enough to return for the weekend against Newcastle. Rooney led the line ahead of Shinji Kagawa, while Everton restored Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley to the starting line-up behind the powerful Lukaku.
The first half was a generally compact, even affair—with United going the closest but Everton perhaps creating more openings in the final third.
Mirallas was the first to test the goalkeeper seriously, firing a dipping shot at David de Gea from 25 yards that took a slight deflection before it was punched over. Lukaku showed off his physical strength against Nemanja Vidic—although perhaps his best opening was cut out by Chris Smalling, with Barkley and Mirallas waiting to sweep in at the far post.
United, though, went into half-time perhaps thinking they should have been in front—as they saw Rooney’s deflected shot hit the post and bounce out into the goalmouth, with a floundering Tim Howard just about swinging a leg out to clear the rebound from danger with a United forward looming.
Moments before that Ryan Giggs—becoming the fourth 40-year-old to make a Premier League appearance—had also gone close, although the midfielder saw his glancing header float agonisingly wide of the far post with Howard helpless.
United came out for the second half with a greater attacking intent, underlined when Patrice Evra tested Howard with a stinging drive just minutes after the restart.
Indeed Evra, perhaps mindful of United’s persistent links in the media with Baines (watching from the stands), seemed to be extra motivated—causing problems to Seamus Coleman time and again with his desire to probe in the final third.
Moyes soon rung the changes, bringing on Januzaj as part of a double substitution alongside Nani, and the winger almost made an immediate impact as a dubious penalty shout was turned down moments before he tested Howard with a long-range drive.
Martinez responded by bringing on his own young livewire, Gerard Deulofeu, but it was United who continued to press and Welbeck saw his close-range header bounce away off the post after Evra’s first attempt had been parried at point-blank range.
As the contest entered the final 10 minutes, however, it was Everton who appeared to be the more comfortable as they put the home side under some sustained pressure.
And eventually it told, Lukaku holding up the ball inside the box before turning and firing a cross that was deflected perfectly to the far post where Oviedo was waiting to fire a low shot through De Gea’s legs.
With Arsenal winning elsewhere, United are now 12 points off the top of the table—while a needless booking picked up for a foul on Phil Jagielka means Wayne Rooney will miss the weekend meeting with Newcastle.
"It's a big catch up for us now," Moyes acknowledged.
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|Rafael da Silva||6|
The testing away trips do not end here for Everton as they now move on to face Premier League leaders Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday. Manchester United, meanwhile, welcome Newcastle to Old Trafford in Saturday's early kick-off.