“Maybe it was just that bit of quality in the final third that we didn't have.
“Maybe it was just that bit of quality in the final third that we didn't have. We tried to find a way to get a goal but it wasn't to be.” DAVID MOYES knows where his side are wanting.
“We decided to play Park (Ji-sung) in a wide position and he did very well for us but we still created the best chances in the game - Park the very first minute. Everton put in a lot of crosses but we managed to get them away and (David) De Gea didn't have much to do really.” ALEX FERGUSON reflects on a modest return to winning ways.
SO OFTEN the snarling beast that intimidates opponents into surrender, Goodison Park had a faint but concerning air of submission on Saturday.
The 35,494 attendance for an untelevised game was the lowest for a fixture against Manchester United in more than 18 years, but more worrying in the current context was the routine feeling about defeat to a top four side.
The Old Lady was hardly meek and mild, there was still more volume and passion than you’ll find in most Premier League grounds, but it failed to influence events on the field.
And almost in unison, Everton’s players failed to crackle and set the atmosphere alight.
Alex Ferguson’s men did not come to try and blast the Toffees away, in the free-scoring manner with which they began this campaign.
Instead the Red Devils offered little devilment.
It would be stretching things to suggest that United, humbled and nervous after that derby demolition, were there for the taking, but they were certainly more vulnerable than usual. Yet ultimately, the result mirrored that of October 23, 1993 when a solitary Lee Sharpe strike saw Howard Kendall’s side beaten in front of 35,430. Why? Because David Moyes is still being asked to plug too many significant gaps, and for once it’s beginning to look like those feisty afternoons when the big-spenders were given a bloody nose will be no more.
The Toffees had more possession, but no cutting edge. How often have we heard that before?
It’s no use expecting talented but raw youngsters like Apostolos Vellios and Ross Barkley to consistently provide the difference.
With Ferguson astutely deploying Ji-Sung Park to combat any forward forays by Leighton Baines, one of Everton’s most potent creative threats was largely nullified.
And Louis Saha, so majestic in spells just three days earlier against Chelsea, was running almost on empty after his 120 minute Carling Cup display.
The 33-year-old Frenchman is one of the best strikers around, but his body won’t consistently allow him to keep pace with the thick and fast nature of cup and league competition.
Losing Steven Pienaar in January was a body-blow to Everton’s creative intent, the departure of Mikel Arteta in the summer even more undermining.
Come January, it is imperative that Moyes is able to spend some of the £12m he received for the Spaniard on a playmaker and a striker.
It won’t be easy, the new year window is difficult to navigate, but Everton’s current hopes rest on it.
The Blues lost the midfield tussle against United.
Jack Rodwell and Marouane Fellaini both played well, but were initially out-numbered and out-passed by the impressive Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney.
By the time that conundrum had been addressed, the Blues trailed 1-0 to a soft goal. Welbeck fed Patrice Evra who crossed, and as Jagielka failed to clear the ball, Javier Hernandez pounced to convert with a simple far-post header.
Everton’s work-rate and endeavour was commendable.
They plugged on gamely, and created more half-chances after the opening goal than their opponents, but any incisive finishing was non-existent. Making the task of Saha, and Osman behind him, even tougher was the brilliantly commanding display of Nemanja Vidic who didn’t lose a challenge all game.
Compact and well-organised, Ferguson’s side defended their early lead well and Everton had no answers. And while the Blues rode their luck at Fulham last weekend to capitalise on Bobby Zamora’s freakish miss, this time fortune abandoned them.
Rodwell’s vicious shot was saved by David de Gea who somehow blocked with his face, and Leighton Baines immaculately struck 25-yard free kick slapped back off the cross bar.
Barkley, the focus of much clamour for a more regular role, had replaced Diniyar Bilyaletdinov at half time and provided a more robust and dynamic presence on the left flank, but Everton’s final ball continued to underwhelm.
The Blues finished the game with Barkley, 17, Magaye Gueye, 21, and Vellios, 19, on the pitch – plenty to provide hope for their long-term prospects,
But whether this can be a season to herald any progress remains to be seen.
Five defeats in six, and 16th in the table sees Everton limping out of the toughest of fixture runs in depleted shape.
So while October won’t be missed, the new month brings eminently more winnable games against Newcastle, high-flying but largely untested, Wolves, and Bolton.
It’s not time for any rash verdicts on where they will finish in the table, but the arrival of marquee fixtures like Manchester United invite assessment, and the judgement both on and off the pitch was inconclusive. Additions to a small squad in January are crucial.
EVERTON (4-4-2): Howard; Hibbert, Heitinga, Jagielka, Baines; Coleman, Fellaini, Rodwell, Bilyaletdinov (Barkley 46); Osman (Vellios 76); Saha (Gueye 84). Not used: Subs: Mucha, Stracqualursi, McFadden, Mustafi.
MAN UTD (4-4-1-1): de Gea; Jones, Evans, Vidic, Evra; Fletcher; Park, Rooney, Cleverley (Nani 57), Welbeck (Valencia 73); Hernandez (Berbatov 67). Not used: Subs: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Owen, F da Silva.
GOALS: Hernandez 19
CARDS: Rodwell, Coleman and Fellaini (all fouls).
REFEREE: Mark Halsey.