That man again
As part of our new Premier League Snap-shots feature, Chris Burton looks back at Everton's 1-0 victory over Manchester United at Goodison
Last Updated: 21/08/12 8:27am
Everton claimed a notable scalp in the final game of the opening weekend in the 2012/13 Premier League season, with Marouane Fellaini returning to haunt Manchester United.
Robin van Persie did make his Red Devils debut but the Toffees had not read the script and ruined his big night, with Sir Alex Ferguson's title hopefuls stumbling out of the blocks.
Back in April, Everton put a serious dent in Manchester United's Premier League title charge as they stunned Old Trafford by snatching a 4-4 draw. David Moyes, understandably, decided to go with the same approach which served his side so well on that occasion. Ten of those who started a thriller at the Theatre of Dreams were back in action on the opening day at Goodison Park, with Leighton Baines' inclusion in place of John Heitinga the only change to the Toffees' starting XI. Steven Pienaar was included from the off after completing a permanent return to Merseyside over the summer, but another new arrival, Steven Naismith, had to make do with a place on the bench.
All of the build-up to the game had centred around one man - Manchester United new boy Robin van Persie. Sir Alex Ferguson is a wily old fox and decided not to thrust his new £24million striker into the spotlight on the back of no pre-season. Danny Welbeck got the nod alongside Wayne Rooney, while Shinji Kagawa -who has excited during his short time at Old Trafford - was charged with playmaking duties in a deep-lying role. At the back, club captain Nemanja Vidic marked his return to Premier League action alongside make-shift centre-half Michael Carrick and part-time right-back Antonio Valencia.
Moyes opted to go with a 4-4-1-1 formation, allowing Everton to flood the midfield when necessary and surge forward when in possession. Pressing high up the field was an obvious ploy early on, with United afforded no time on the ball inside their own half. Those who can play were given the freedom to do so, while those who like to put their foot in did the dirty work. Everton got their approach spot on, with David de Gea forced to pull off a number of spectacular saves before the deadlock was finally broken.
Sir Alex Ferguson went with a 4-3-3 system, with Nani pushed high up the field to form a three-pronged attack with Rooney and Welbeck. The Red Devils struggled to deal with balls fed into the space between their back four and midfield at times, with Everton able to get players into 'the hole'. Getting the ball wide has always been a preferred tactic of United and Valencia and Patrice Evra helped to provide the width, while Rooney and Nani rotated in an effort to keep Baines and Tony Hibbert on their toes.
Seamus Coleman replaced Leon Osman late on in a like-for-like replacement, with Moyes keen to keep energy levels high in his engine room. The Toffees were rather forced into their second change, with the sight of Nikica Jelavic hobbling off holding the back of his leg offering slight concern. The Croatian striker made way for debutant Naismith in the closing stages. Fellaini was afforded a standing ovation in stoppage-time when Heitinga was thrown on to keep the back door bolted.
Ferguson made three attacking changes after falling behind, with Van Persie, Ashley Young and Anderson sent on in place of Welbeck, Nani and Tom Cleverley. Anderson sent one 25-yard effort flashing across the face of goal, but the changes did not have the desired impact for the visitors.
Pienaar may be a familiar face at Goodison, but he was brought back for a third spell over the summer and is therefore considered to be a 'new signing'. Moyes would have had no concerns at throwing the South African into action and gave him the freedom to drift and influence proceedings wherever he could. Comfortable on the ball, with his head always up exploring the options available to him, Pienaar's vision caused United problems. Naismith spent 89 minutes watching from the sidelines and will be looking to make more of an impression in the weeks to come.
After seeing Fellaini open the scoring, Ferguson turned to Van Persie after 68 minutes. He was immediately involved as he trotted on to take a corner, but has been drafted in for his goalscoring ability not his set-piece delivery. Van Persie came close to providing a chance for Kagawa with one low cross, but he was kept relatively quiet and saw no opportunities of note fall his way. Kagawa has caught the eye in pre-season and looks like he has all the attributes to be a Premier League success story. His ability to spot a pass early will serve United well, while his first touch was tight all evening and he looked to break into the box and offer a goal threat whenever the Red Devils pushed into the final third - a Paul Scholes clone.
Andre Marriner went to his pocket early, which may have helped to keep the players in line for the rest of the game. Two yellow cards were brandished inside the opening 13 minutes, to Nani and Scholes, and there were no more until Darron Gibson incurred the referee's wrath in injury-time. The Nani caution appeared slightly harsh, but a rash challenge from Scholes left Marriner with no choice. The man in the middle got most things right and will be pleased with his opening effort of the new season.
Notoriously slow starters, Everton could not have wished for a better opening to the 2012/13 campaign. A derby duel under the floodlights at Goodison produced an electric atmosphere and a fantastic performance from the hosts. The challenge now is to build on this result. Raising your game for a home date with Manchester United is one thing, replicating those heroics during a trip to Aston Villa next weekend will be quite another. Everton should, however, be setting their sights on a European challenge this season.
United will know that an opening defeat means little in the grand scheme of things, but Ferguson would have been looking to establish early momentum. He will point to a back four cobbled together with two midfielders as one area in which United can improve, while creativity in midfield and understandings between the new arrivals and the old stagers must be established. The Red Devils will burst into life, it is just a matter of when.