Everton 0 - 3 Manchester United
It was a dark sombre atmosphere in the Room of Nonsense as we took in the news of Howard Kendall’s passing. Stories abounded from those that either knew him or had met him at charity bashes. The upshot was he was regarded by all as the manager that took us to the heights and but for a bit of trouble at a game involving our cousins from across the park would suerly have sealed our BIG club status to this very day. Also everyone regarded him as great bloke who always had time to talk to fans.
It was only yesterday I was reading his column in the Echo making today’s news harder to take also it emerged that as late as last night he was with Snods at a charity do and at the end was heard to tell Snods he would see him for the game today. R.I.P Howard.
The teams were beamed through and with Coleman and Stones deemed fit plus Lennon and Naismith getting starts some of us wondered if too many changes were being made to face a side smarting after a bit of a mauling at the Emirates. We were to get our answer. The walk up was one of being slightly quiet but wall to wall fans snaking along Spellow Lane and Goodison Road a sure sign of a full house as the official attendance of 39,553 confirmed. I walked passed floral tributes that had been left in memory of Howard and into the ground in time to welcome the teams. There was to be a minute’s applause in memory of the great man which stretched to about two minutes as it started well before the ref blew his whistle for the official single minute. The man was well liked around these parts you see.
The game started and a stat came to mind that Rooney hadn’t scored an away goal for some eleven months. You just know some things don’t you!! For fifteen minutes mainly sparring took place with United looking the more likely as Everton played ‘almost stuff’ with things like Barry playing McCarthy forward but he ran it out of play, Naismith gave Lukaku a sniff but De Gea was fast out and took the ball from the toes of Lukaku, Naismith fouled on the edge but Lukaku’s free kick hit the wall and deflected for a corner which Barkley swung in but the ref spotted a foul and United cleared via the free kick.
I thought now that we were starting to play too much across the back line looking for a break but United had closed all roads so too often the outcome was a punt up to Lukaku and to be fair the big man really fought for them and held them up but all too often support was never near enough for us to get excited. United were attacking more now seemingly sensing we had little to offer going forward and Herrera hit one with power that Howard did well to tip over. From the resultant corner just before the 20min mark we could only muster a half clearance with no one rushing to close down Schniederlin seemed just to stroll onto the ball and arrow one passed Howard. We were getting very sloppy in our play now and some four minutes later it was no real surprise when from an attacking foray United won the ball and played down their left with one pass to their player who was criminally in acres of space and put in a first time cross to the beckoning Herrera who met it and had little difficulty in heading beyond Howard leaving us 2-0 down and many of us forecasting game over.
We didn’t have to be too bright to forecast that as the rest of the half would show. United were now in containing mode and happy to sit back and wait for the chance of a break which at times was agony to watch as we passed and passed across the back then when a break was made United seemed to have little difficulty in mopping up and coming at us. Coleman was being given a going over by Martial who was dangerous on their left wing but the Irishman did manage a run and cross that Lukaku beat De Gea to the ball but only red shirts were near enough to the incident and the ball was cleared. It was funny watching De Gea falling in a heap on the ground after Lukaku had beaten him. The ref told him to get up.
To round off the half we did attack a little more but could not muster any meaningful shot on target. We did have less than competent defending before the end of the half when defenders stopped to claim Rooney offside, he wasn’t and the Croxteth lad but Martial in on goal but he wasted a bit too much time and Stones and Howard between them managed to bundle the ball from him. Barkley finally had a good shot on target but De Gea pushed it away and that was that with most Blues glad of some respite.
H/T and the chat was all about how poor that first half was with Lukaku looking the only player up for the game. No matter what plaudits had been aired in the week this was dire. What Howard would have thought I don’t know?
Second half and Kone had replaced the out of sorts Naismith. I did wonder considering our woeful first half and United looking streets ahead of us in all aspects if a triple change and go for it might have been the better option. For a short while we did look more up for it as Lukaku almost profited with a header at the near post then Kone went on a powerful mazy one and exchanged passes with Lukaku but miss-hit his shot to accompanying groans. We had upped the tempo and Coleman got down the right and put a very good cross across goal that had Barkley racing onto it but it just evaded him. Many thought he should have thrown himself at it or tried the diving header.
The half was looking better as we gained a couple of free kicks the second of which saw a pile-driver from Lukaku stopped on the line by the leg of De Gea. At last Barkley got a free kick right as he arced it in and just a glance would have scored but no one was rushing in and the keeper palmed away and two follow up shots were both blocked by well-placed defenders. Less than twenty minutes of the second half gone and we are at last looking more interested but a goal was desperately needed so in true Everton fashion we contrive to put the game out of reach ourselves when after another period of keep-ball across the back Jags at last strides out of defence but plants his measured pass right to an opponent who put Rooney in and his eleven month wait for an away goal is served up on a plate as he strides toward Howard sits him down and nets.
That really was game over with still half an hour to play. Fair play the Blues tried to peg away but with only Lukaku looking like a man who was performing like you expect all our players to perform in these circumstances we were always ending up short. About a quarter of an hour to go and the manager subs off Lennon and sends on Deulofeu but United were comfortable now and managing the game to its conclusion. Fans were now leaving in droves with the Park End leading the way and by the time Barkley had struck a wicked free kick dipping toward goal the confident De Gea merely waved it over. At the other end Martial was still giving Coleman the run around outpaced him and came in along the goal line but it was Howard to the rescue who won a foot tackle to avert another goal.
Fellaini came on for a cameo and immediately Jags went through him with a strong tackle, looked like our skipper was a frustrated soul. The board went up with 3 extra minutes and there was quite a groan from those who were actually left in the ground to witness it. Final whistle and we all shuffled away in bemusement at such a luke-warm effort and the thought of a trip to the Emirates next week to face a team that beat United good style seems the stuff of nightmares at the moment.
A lousy day all round with the news of Howard then that display that makes me think that after such performances fans should have the ticket price repaid!
Still, no two games are the same so here’s hoping.
UP THE BLUES