In Roberto Martinez’s own words, this week, with its two massive games, promised to be a “defining week” for him and his players: A Merseyside derby that Everton dared not lose and an FA Cup semi-final that offered the only remaining route to redemption in a season that has very much followed the route to disappointment trodden by the last.
A “pivotal week” is probably closer to what he intended to say but his comments ended up being unfortunately prescient — humiliation on the back of defensive vulnerability and suspect mentality at the hands of Liverpool, the giving up of an injury time goal at Wembley to Manchester United, and failure just when a crack at glory were in his team’s hands have, sadly, come to define the Catalan’s tenure.
After Wednesday’s galling collapse at Anfield, Martinez needed a big performance and the kind of backs-against-the-wall underdog spirit that lifted Everton teams of the past over United at Wembley in 1995 and 2012. He eventually got something akin to it, whether by his own powers of motivation or, perhaps more likely, through a response from the players to the desperation pouring out of stands from 30-odd thousand Evertonians and the realisation that their entire season was circling the drain.
Following 45 minutes of tentative, defensive football that was lacking cohesion and organisation and during which time they fell behind to Maroune Fellaini’s 34th-minute goal, the Blues suddenly discovered the intensity and drive that has been wholly lacking through a run of what is now seven games without a win in all competitions and had Louis van Gaal’s Red Devils on the ropes at times in the second half.
It yielded a penalty, won by the otherwise disappointing Ross Barkley when he was felled in the box by Tim Fosu-Mensah, that was taken well enough by Romelu Lukaku but saved by David de Gea, a goalkeeper who has made a habit of bringing his best form into meetings with Everton over the past couple of seasons. Then, after Phil Jagielka had denied Fellaini a second goal with an unseen handball almost on the goal-line, Everton levelled and threatened to turn the tie on its head with more pressure but, sadly, it didn’t ultimately tell.
Instead, there was the latest in a succession of stings in the "tale" that Blues fans have had to deal with as Martinez’s defence was sliced open one final time and Anthony Martial swept through the breach to plant a cruel winner beyond Joel Robles.
Little of what Martinez said in the aftermath of another crushing loss will have resonated with fed up Evertonians but he was right that, on balance, Everton probably deserved to get to extra time. Their first-half display had been massively disappointing, an echo of the lifeless and unimaginative fare that has characterised a sequence of three draws and, now, four defeats since that potentially catalytic victory over Chelsea last month.
It would be easier to blame the loss of Seamus Coleman, the need to use Muhamed Besic as an emergency fullback, and Jagielka’s injury if the second half from Martinez’s side hadn’t been so much better. Jagielka played — very effectively it has to be said — despite his hamstring strain but Besic was targeted often by the reds down their left and Darron Gibson’s deployment as a deep-lying defensive midfielder bordering on a third centre-half robbed Everton of numbers going forward.
The Blues ceded the ball and territory to United to an unsettling degree and Van Gaal’s men took up the invitation, playing in Marcus Rashford, foiled by blocks from John Stones and Joel Robles; Fellaini, also foiled by Stones; and Jessie Lingard who was denied brilliantly in a one-on-one by the Everton goalkeeper. All that after Martial had lit the touch paper on an open and entertaining game following a pedestrian opening with a slaloming run with the ball towards goal that he couldn’t convert from a tight angle.
And yet the Blues’ tactic of trying to catch United cold with a quick ball behind their defence for Lukaku to chase almost paid dividends on two occasions. First, he rounded Daley Blind to latch onto Robles’ booming kick forward and advance on goal but a heavy touch took him wider of de Gea than he would have liked and his shot into the turf kicked lacked the power to beat Rooney who had tracked all the way back to his goal-line.
Then, on the quarter-hour mark, Cleverley sent him away for another showdown with De Gea but, again, a bobble off his knee took the ball away from him and the angle was too acute by the time he got the shot off and the United keeper saved.
Unfortunately, Besic was ruthlessly exposed for the opening goal, as Rashford accelerated past him to the byline and cut it back to Fellaini to bobble the ball past Robles 11 minutes before half time.
That there was no response from Everton between then and the interval spoke volumes of their performance in that first half but they were a different proposition in the second period, even if they were let down to a degree by their star men.
Lukaku was arguably the biggest reason why the Blues were in the semi-final in the first place given how he almost single-handedly won the quarter final but he came up short just when his team needed him today. And Barkley looked a far cry from the player who had looked earlier in the season like he was back to being the brightest young midfield talent in the country.
The fightback, when it came, wasn’t led by Martinez’s self-proclaimed “style” of possession-based football; it was a last-ditch effort to raise the tempo by a group of players who were willed on by the masses of Evertonians banked in their thousands around one half of Wembley and elimination from the cup rapidly closing in on them.
Lingard made a mess of a left-shot off Martial’s back-heel 10 minutes after the break but Everton then took control and within a couple more they had the chance to level. Lennon and Barkley caught United short-handed at the back, the winger crossed low and Tim Fosu-Mensah chopped the latter down inside the box. After a moment’s reflection, referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot, Lukaku took responsibility for the kick but De Gea guessed right and palmed it away.
Fans have criticised Everton for their mentality at times this season but their immediate reaction to that set-back could only have been better if it had resulted in an equaliser. Tom Cleverley shanked a chance at the back post well wide and air-kicked another cross from a central position, James McCarthy volleyed into the turf making for a routine save for the ‘keeper and a magnificent turn by Cleverley to skin his marker ended with a teasing cross that Lukaku headed over, unaware of Besic behind him who was probably better placed to head home from close range.
By the time Gerard Deulofeu was introduced for Lennon with 20 minutes to go, Gibson had dropped almost entirely back alongside Jagielka and Stones was being given license to maraud forward in mostly impressive fashion to help build attacks. It was Deulofeu who made the difference just five minutes after coming on, though, crossing low looking for Lukaku in the middle but prompting Chris Smalling into slicing into his own net instead.
1-1 but Everton weren’t done and they continued to press for a second. Deulofeu’s placed, side-foot shot was a little tame but it nicked off a defender and the keeper almost pushed the ball straight to the feet of Lukaku. The Belgian then failed to make proper contact on a gilt-edged chance as a cross bounced through from the left flank, and one of the Blues’ best moves of the game ended with Fellaini denying his compatriot with a last-ditch tackle, deflecting Lukaku’s shot behind.
A breathless second half was heading into extra time when United carved Everton’s tiring defence open one last, decisive time, however. Ander Herrera, on for just a few minutes as a substitute and the recipient of a yellow card straight away for a cynical tug on Barkley’s jersey, managed to prod the ball through to Martial who did the rest with just the ‘keeper to beat with less than a minute of stoppage time to go.
In contrast to the manner in which they threw away the initiative in the Capital One Cup semi-final in January, albeit also in controversial circumstances, the “valiant loser” aspect to Everton’s failure plays right into the “unlucky” narrative that will fool some into continuing to back Martinez as Everton’s manager. The reality is, however, that the team was ultimately undone by its failure to turn up for 50-odd minutes, its consistent failings at the back and the leaking of yet another injury-time goal.
“It comes to a point where we have to achieve and this season is very, very important for that.”
Those were the words of Martinez in November last year when he first started gathering the rhetorical rope by which he has now hanged himself. This was back when Everton had a League Cup quarter final ahead of them and were about to move back into seventh place with a win over Aston Villa, one of only four they have managed in the Premier League so far this season.
Since then, with every set-back, every blown lead, and every concession of a painful last-minute goal, Martinez has repeated his assertion that the Toffees are “very close to being a winning team”; the rhetoric shifting from insisting that Everton’s “young” team had to “achieve” this term to a constant readjustment of the timeline. Mañana, Mañana. It’s always just around the corner which is, of course, very convenient if you’re trying to preserve your job.
The Anfield disgrace was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Giving Martinez a shot at redemption with an FA Cup semi-final was either a show of loyalty and integrity, a desperate last shot, an unwillingness to make a hard decision, or simply blind faith on the part of Bill Kenwright and the Everton board. This latest failure should be the absolute final straw for the hierarchy; as painful as it is, the situation calls for ruthlessness with swift action so that the wheels can be set in motion for the next era at Goodison Park with a bolder, higher-profile appointment.
As a tweet from a frustrated supporter implored of the Chairman this evening, does your loyalty lie with one man or the thousands of Blues who deserve better than what they have been put through this season? On the back of a horrible week, crestfallen Evertonians are speaking loudly and in their thousands this evening but is anybody listening?
It looked like a reprise of Woeful Wednesday as Fellaini scored with Man Utd dominant in the first half. But Everton won a questionable penalty that De Gea saved despite a very strong shot from Lukaku, and the Blues finally woke up, giving it a good game but still not really doing damage until a Deulofeu cross was turned in by Smalling. A strong comeback by the Blues almost came off until a sharp move cut through the Blues defence and Martial scored in the second minute of added time.
After the most traumatic of weeks for Evertonians, in a season of increasingly desperate trauma, some respite to the abysmal Premier League form was hopefully on offer at Wembley Stadium this afternoon. Despite a massive groundswell of derision toward the manager, many calling for him to be sacked before this pivotal game, Roberto Martinez remained in charge of his clearly unhappy retinue.
But today should have been more about the players and the fans, with Martinez having to cobble together a line-up that lacked Gareth Barry, possibly out for the rest of the season, Seamus Coleman also suffering with hamstring issues, and Ramiro Funes Mori, red-carded on that horrific night at Anfield.
Defender Matthew Pennington came into the squad as cover after being recalled from his loan spell at Walsall, with Tony Hibbert also on the bench. Captain Phil Jagielka was declared fit despite his current hamstring damage, with some uncertainty over who would play right back from four defensive midfielders in Gibson Cleverley, Besic, and McCarthy. Could the Blues line-up 4-3-3? Or 3-4-3?
Manchester United, with Rooney and Fellaini on the field, Martial and Rashford in attack, kicked off to get the game going, with Barkley running hard at Blind but not winning he ball as Man Utd played around a bit before hoofing it forward to Fellaini, to no avail, but the Reds controlling early play and slowing things down to a walking pace.
The Blues got a little possession but did nothing with it and a throw-in led to Martial galloping forward and winning a corner off superb defending by Stones. Robles collected, launched high to Lukaku who got past Blind but a horrendous first touch pushed him wide and allowed Wayne Rooney to get back on the line and head the ball away... hopeless really from Lukaku.
That at least livened up a rather sluggish start. Martial almost got past Lennon at right back but was body-checked. The free-kick from Rooney was glanced wide by Rojo. The Reds were clearly the better side despite that missed effort by Lukaku but the Blues did advance, Barkley with a low shot in on De Gea.
Rashord and Lingard got behind the Blue line and Robles was sharply out to block a certain goal, and Lingard then got on the end of a great diagonal ball but Robles was again out fast to snuff out the danger. But the Blues were poor trying to move the ball out of their half, giving possession up cheaply and Utd were soon on the attack, Besic halting the move with a good tackle.
Martial again got past Besic down the Everton right, Besic blocking out for another Utd corner taken by Blind deep, but a free-kick was ordered for Rojo pushing Jagielka. Another long ball to Lukaku and he did well to get ahead but his horrible horrible first touch, chest off knee, again pushed him far too wide and all he could do was pass the ball back to De Gea. A second golden chance squandered.
Lingard had the beating of Gibson but Baines was across sharply for another corner, taken short. Pressure on the Blues continued, Besic finally clearing, but only brief respite before Martial got on the end of another defense-splitting ball that was lashed over Robles and the Everton goal.
It was all one-way traffic, Fellaini heading back for Rashford but Robles saved the Blues again. Barkley tried to break out and was fouled. Baines got forward and crossed but straight to De Gea. The Blues continued to struggle for meaningful possession, exemplified by Stones playing forward to Lukaku's feet, the Big Man unable to make a telling pass.
Barkley finally probed forward but was immediately swarmed by three red defenders and it came to nought, while Utd surged forward again. But the Blues were getting a little more of the play... yet still not really threatening when they did have it at their feet. At the other end, Robles saved a weak shot from Rooney before Martial skipped past Besic and along the byeline, cutting it back to Fellaini who had an easy task even mis-hitting the ball as he converted high into the net past Robles. It had been coming...
The Blues tried to respond but were repelled on the edge of the area, Barkley's shot blocked, and the Reds were soon up the other end, winning a corner, as Everton were being increasingly outclassed by the sharper play of the Red Devils.
More slow, ponderous build-up play saw the ball again launched toward Lukaku's head and the lay-off just not sticking. Everton were a little more competitive in midfield and won a free-kick that was only taken short, but possession play was easily countered by a solid Reds defence that kept them well away from De Gea's goal.
Everton were simply not clicking, and in grave danger of collapsing as they had on Wednesday night, such was the paucity of their play, with all the bad habits created by Martinez's hopeless coaching coming to the fore as they went in after one added minute.
The Blues kicked off after the break, and showed a little more forward intent, Lennon looking for a free-kick as he was blocked off the ball at the byeline. More slow build-up play eneded with a forward ball played to Lukaku the tree-trunk that bounced back high and to an opposition player.
But the Blues did put something together, winning a free-kick wide left off Martial but headed away by Fellaini. Besic, now playing left-back(?) almost got caught and was saved by a handball call. Cleverley had a chance to release Barkley but his pass was impossible to control. Man Utd worked the ball forward and created a great chance for Lingard that he thankfully screwed wide.
Martial was fouled by Besic but the free-kick was defended away but a swift attack by Everton, Lukaku doing well, Barkley and Lennon combing, and Barkley getting a rather fortunate penalty, the defender just getting a touckh on the ball. Lukaku lashed the peknalty hard but De Gea had it down perfectly with a tremendous one-handed save to deny Everton an equalizer, no matter how unjust it might have been.
Everton got a good looking free-kick that Barkley did well to get over the wall... too well as De Gea had time to save again. But at least Everton were attacking, Lennon crossing to Cleverley coming in at the far post but his control was poor as he felt a touch off Lingard, but this not called as a penalty. .
Everton attacked again and again, as if they had finally found a new script, Barkley trying to curl a shot in but winning a corner that came to nothing. A high cross was too high for Lukaku, who should have left it to Besic coming in behind him, and another chance went begging.
At the other end, it looks like Fellaini would score from close range but Jagileka threw himself down in front of Robles and stopped it with his arm, unseen. Blues attacked with gusto, Lukaku heading over, then swinging in a fierce ball that Cleverley could not convert, then a corner swung in too deep.
Barkley picked the ball up and looked o run at the Reds but an interception dispossessed him and Deulofeu came on for Lennon with 20 minutes left. Deulofeu got a run but played the ball away not once but twice. He picked the ball up again on the left side later and passes it straight to a red shirt, creating another strong Man Utd attack down the Everton left.
The Blues tempo had flagged a little but the next attack finally saw a remarkable end product, Deulofeu pausing before firing in a cross that Lukaku had no chance of reaching because Smalling did his job for him, slicing the ball very nicely into the United net, Blues fans erupt!
A great attack don the left saw Barkley release Deulofeu but his cross didn't reach Lukakau as De Gea made a great interception. Baines then whipped in a fantastic ball that was just too high again for Lukaku. A counter by United won a couple of corners after a css went through everyone.
A fantastic counter attack, Deulofeu, Barkley and Lukaku but somehow they contrived not score when i seemed the easiest option, Fellaini getting the crucial interceptions the pace of the match reached fantastic new heights with seven minutes left of the 90. At the other end, another wicked low cross looked lie an open opportunity. Man Utd had a strong spell of attacks, Rooney playing in Rashford, Stones messing up but Jagielka rescuing him.
Hopefully the Blues had not shot their bolt but the final 10 mins were dominated by Man Utd, who switched Fellaini for Herrera. It was desperate defending at times but the Blues broke, Barkley unable to get away from Herrera, who rugby-tackled him, Barkley tumbling and kicking out a little in annoyance: yellow card. Nothing came of the free-kick and Utd attacked again, winning a corner as Gibson went down qwith cramp, 3 mins of added time shown as Robles catches the corner with confidence. Lukaku went on De Gea as he tried to clear, but only gave them a goal kick.
But seemingly from nothing, quick interpassing, the bounce beating Jagielka and Martial somehow wriggled through the Blue line and lashed the ball easily past Robles to win the game in added time. One final attack by the Blues before the whistle blew and that was it. The Everton players had put a great effort for 35 minutes after a pretty poor start that lasted all of 55 minutes. Not the capitulation many expected in the end, but crucial chances missed mean our name was not on the cup after all.
It's never usWhilst our mind-numbing Premier League season has flitted away over the last month or so we have spent a fair bit of time pre-game in the pub discussing our trip to Wembley. Ste mooted a departure time of 6am which, though no problem for an insomniac like myself (I actually awoke at 2am and was unable to get back to sleep!), I found a bit strange given the game wasn't to kick off until 5:15pm.
This proved to be a master-stroke from Ste however as, upon arriving at Stanmore station a little after 9:30am, there were very few spaces available in the car park. Had we have set off at around 8am like I would have suggested, there is no way we would have gotten a parking space there and would have had to figure something else out. The drive down was a breeze too and we arrived in what felt like no time at all. Gary and Sue in the back seats, and joined by Rob, a Manchester United supporter who lives just around the corner from me who was at a bit of a loose end with regards to travel.
Arriving at about 10am we saw little point going straight to Wembley, so stayed on the train a little longer, getting off at Baker Street. Coming out of the station I said, "What we need is a Weatherspoons. Somewhere to get some breakfast and a beer" and turning right as we walked out in all it's glory was The Metropolitan Bar, a Weatherspoons. In we went, getting a good table and it was a comfortable travellers rest for us for a few hours where we could relax with Everton and Manchester United supporters enjoying the morning and early afternoon. My sister, who lives in London, joined us for a little while, as too did a London-based Irish Evertonian Leslie, who I have gotten to know via ToffeeWeb.
At around 1pm, we went on to Wembley, deciding on The Torch to enjoy the afternoon outside amongst loads and loads of fellow Evertonians. We bumped into some of the fella's who sit next to us in the Gwladys Street and a few other mates from home. It was a fantastic party atmosphere with everyone in great spirits and blue flares going off time and again. When the smoke on one of them had evaporated it was launched in the air, landing directly in Sue's drink which was just hilarious. Ian, a friend of Gary's who lives in Brighton, though unable to get a ticket for the game, also joined us. Even Michael Ball was there chatting with the fans and posing for photos. It was a great time, really good fun before we walked down Wembley Way for the main event. Gary and Sue even bumped into Derek Mountfield and Pat van den Hauwe as they neared Wembley Stadium.
We'd since seen the team news in the pub and we were made up that Gary's inkling that Phil Jagielka would make the team was correct. He partnered John Stones in defence with Mohammed Besic drafted in to right back to replace Bryan Oviedo after the latter's personal hell in Wednesday's Merseyside derby. With Gareth Barry unavailable, Darron Gibson was sensibly drafted in to the middle alongside James McCarthy with Aaron Lennon and Tom Cleverley (I'd have gone with Kevin Mirallas myself) on the flanks with Ross Barkley supporting Romelu Lukaku in attack. Tony Hibbert provided additional cover from the substitutes bench. Ex-Blues Wayne Rooney and Marouanne Fellaini featured for Manchester United as did the promising youngster Marcus Rashford. Anthony Taylor officiated.
Though a poor display in the first half, Romelu Lukaku will have been very disappointed with his first touch with two first-half opportunities both of which he really should have done better with. One I think was going wide before Wayne Rooney cleared just short of the goal line though it was difficult to tell what was happening out there in the sun. At the other end, Jesse Lingard forced Joel Robles into a good save.
Both sets of supporters were vocally getting behind their team though Manchester United began to get a stranglehold on the game and had us under quite severe pressure as we approached the break. As is the way with Everton lately the pressure told and Marcus Rashford did well to slip in Marouanne Fellaini who smashed the ball past Joel Robles to put Manchester United into a deserved lead at the break.
At the break, amongst the crowd people were squabbling with each other whilst a couple of the guys in front of us were so drunk they were literally falling over. There seemed to be very few stewards about also. In the dressing room, a big half-time was required from Roberto Martinez and it could be his last.
In fairness to Roberto Martinez, he did get an excellent reaction from his players in the second half. We did what we haven't done for some time now and really had a go at Manchester United with Ross Barkley and Aaron Lennon particularly instrumental with driving us on. The Evertonians, desperate for long-awaited success, reacted and got behind the team.
It was Ross Barkley who was allegedly felled in the penalty box by Tim Fosu-Mensah to give Everton a gilt-edged opportunity from the penalty spot. The penalty award looked a tad generous to me but we certainly weren't complaining. I noticed Lukaku call for the ball immediately, though Sue saw him take the ball from Leighton Baines. Up stepped Lukaku and, just as he did with his last penalty against West Ham United, the Belgian changed his run-up, making it perhaps more obvious were he was going to put the ball and David de Gea saved well down to his right hand side to huge applause from the Manchester United supporters. The eventual follow up shot was also saved by the Manchester United goalkeeper.
I thought this might have killed Everton but, on the contrary, the players somehow seemed more inspired, more determined. Gerard Deulofeu replaced Aaron Lennon. I'd have liked to have seen two wingers on the pitch though in any event, the substitution was an effective one as it was the Spaniard's low centre which was diverted past David de Gea by Chris Smalling. Everton level. Evertonians erupted. Manchester United on the backfoot.
Sadly we couldn't finish them off. A beautiful delivery from Leighton Baines deserved better but was headed wide on the dive by Romelu Lukaku whilst Phil Jagielka and John Stones were at their defiant best at the other end to keep out Manchester United. Phil Jagielka showed remarkable courage and determination to get himself through the game and he will be in bits today, both physically and emotionally.
As we neared stoppage time Jagielka went down injured and you worried he may not be able to continue though he dragged himself up. Heartbreakingly it was to be our undoing as in the 93rd minute, with all supporters anticipating extra time, Ander Herrera got the better of James McCarthy and poked the ball through for Anthony Martial. I think if Phil Jagielka was not nursing such a painful injury he may have been able to fling himself across the box in time to get a goal-preventing block in, but that he couldn't do and Anthony Martial finished to the jubilation of the Manchester United supporters... and the shock and despair of us Evertonians.
It was truly gutting and the team didn't deserve that. Kevin Mirallas was introduced in vain to desperately salvage the draw but it couldn't be done. Everton out. "It's never us" said Ste at full time. I couldn't put it better. We never fluke these things. We never fluke anything.
I felt a bit devastated for some of the players at full time. For Leon Osman, Tony Hibbert and Tim Howard, though they didn't get on the pitch, it represents their last chance of winning anything at Everton. Likewise probably for Darron Gibson. I thought it would have been a good opportunity for Roberto Martinez to come onto the pitch and applaud the fans as he may not get another chance to do so.
We trudged off dejectedly and it seemed to take an eternity to get to Wembley Park Station though once we did get to the car and reconvened we were out of Stanmore and on the road home pretty quickly. In discussion on the way back, the majority of us felt that now is the time to call time on Roberto as three years is enough time and we've gone backwards and not won anything. Manuel Pellegrini would be the obvious choice for me given he's won things, knows the Premier League, lives in the Northwest, is available and carries himself with dignity, but if the board can go out and find a Mauricio Pochettino or a Ronald Koeman à la Southampton I won't be complaining.
The journey home was grim and we couldn't thank Ste enough for driving us there and back. We were going well until we hit the horrendous roadworks on the M6. What genius thought it a good idea to leave it down to one lane with so much traffic coming that way I just don't know. Especially as there were no trains available thanks to the late kick-off. It was quite appalling really and the idea of getting last orders in the pub had long, long since evaporated when I was finally dropped off at home come 2am.
So thanks for your efforts, Roberto. A genuinely nice man and I wish him well elsewhere, but that's enough for me.
Onwards and upwards Evertonians. The good times will come back and when they do, you'll look back, and you wouldn't change a thing.
Robles: After initial doubts he's impressed me incredibly these last six games or so and I feel we may have a number one after all without the need to go out and spend big on a new one, even if we do of course require back up. You always felt he needed a run of games to show what he can do, and now he's starting to show it. 8
Baines: Did well at both ends of the pitch. One of his better performances of the season. 7
Jagielka: A colossal effort from Jagielka and I was gutted for him more than anyone else I think given how he'd pulled himself through the pain-barrier to get through the game. 8
Stones: Also did well. He and Jagielka represents our best two at the back and their performances together in the early part of the season hint at what could have been achieved had they both remained fit for the season. If only... 7
Besic: Well he's not a right back, lets be clear about that but he did his best and didn't let us down. 6
Gibson: Not bad. Struggling for fitness a little bit but gave it a good go against his old club. He'll likely be moving on in the summer and I hope he can find some fitness. At 28 years old he should still have a lot to offer in the game. 6
McCarthy: Will be disappointed to have lost out to Hererra for the second goal and he was all at sea in the first half though he did well for the most part of the second half as Everton notched it up a few gears. 6
Cleverley: Busy throughout though I'd like to have seen us go for it and swap him for Kevin Mirallas on the flank to try and force the win. 6
Lennon: Was contributing before substituted though
Deulofeu was a good introduction as it proved. 7
Barkley: I thought he was excellent at driving us forward as we chased the game though others tell me he should have been taken off as he was becoming a bit of a passenger. I didn't see it that way and though this probably won't be popular, I felt he was our best player out there. My Man of the Match. 8
Lukaku: Will awake frustrated and disappointed as he missed the opportunities, all very presentable ones including a penalty, to win the game for us. Not a good day to have an off day though he has been off colour for some time now. 5
Deulofeu (for Lennon): Made a difference and created the goal. 7
Mirallas (for Gibson): Not on long enough to judge.
It should be the peak of the season so far — thousands of Blues descending on Wembley, a place where the Twin Towers were once like a second home in the 1980s but more recently the new arch has cast a shadow on Everton on two of their previous three visits. Real hope of an FA Cup Final and a chance to erase the misery of 2009 and 2012 by ending a 21-year trophy drought should be lifting those Blue hearts as they journey down; instead they will do so with very mixed emotions.
Evertonians will travel in hope, but it will be almost forlorn hope that, first and foremost, whatever team Roberto Martinez can patch together can unite, dig deep and produce a performance worthy of the badge. Wednesday's disgrace at Anfield may never be forgiven nor forgotten but with no activity from the board with regard to the manager's position in the ensuing 36 hours, the recriminations and angst will have to be set aside, for 90 minutes at least, in an effort to will the Blues over the line.
For Martinez, the outcome will likely dictate whether it's his last match in charge or whether he is able to cling to his job for the foreseeable future. This semi-final has been central to his rhetoric while his team's awful form since the quarter-final win over Chelsea in the Premier League has dragged on and it's now do or die for the Catalan.
Unfortunately, his preparations for what is the biggest game of his career since he steered Wigan to FA Cup glory three years ago could not have been worse. Beginning the week with his captain and first choice right back rated as highly doubtful to figure tomorrow with hamstring injuries, he lost his most influential midfield player in Gareth Barry to injury in midweek, saw one centre half pick up a suspension and the other come off because of illness, all against the backdrop of the worst ever performance by an Everton team in the Merseyside derby.
It means that Everton could be down to the bare bones at the back. Stones should recover from his bout of gastro-intestinal distress in time to play. Jagielka meanwhile has, apparently, been doing light training in the last day or so but it remains to be seen if he will be pitched in half fit in desperation at the lack of options. Assuming he doesn't make it, Muhamed Besic could drop into the role emergency central-defensive role Barry would surely have filled had he not picked up a groin injury. Or, if reports of his recall are correct, Matthew Pennington could get the nod.
That still leaves a hole at right back where you would assume Bryan Oviedo will never be required to play again after his personal nightmare against Liverpool. Pennington or Callum Connolly could step into that role, as could Aaron Lennon or James McCarthy.
In central midfield, it's a case of perming two or three from Besic, Tom Cleverley, Darron Gibson and Leon Osman and the choice of wingers surely depends on how much Martinez wants to balance containment with offensive threat in the first half. Lennon for his graft and Kevin Mirallas for his early forays at Anfield could be selected for the sake of continuity, with Gerard Deulofeu left in reserve to see how things are later in the game.
Much improved United, who since exiting the Europa League so meekly to Liverpool, have won five of their last six in all competitions, could not be approaching this tie more differently. Louis van Gaal remains unpopular among many Red Devils fans who still don't see him as the man to lead them back to the title but his side have found the kind of consistency and rhythm in recent weeks to eke out results that Everton would kill for.
The meeting between the two sides at the beginning of the month, settled by Anthony Martial's second-half strike, was a case in point. Everton were toothless and lifeless and United just needed the one goal to take the points. Whether it's that tight on this occasion remains to be seen but in Martial, Marcus Rashford and the fit-again Wayne Rooney, Van Gaal certainly has attacking weapons at his disposal to exploit Martinez's weakened back line.
All eyes will be looking to see what kind of response Martinez can elicit from his charges after Wednesday's travesty but Blues fans will hope that on this occasion the players will be playing for themselves and the fans; that they can be the ones to end this quest for silverware and salvage something from the season.
Evertonians shouldn't have to balance their hopes of getting through the semi-final to earn a crack at ending a desperate longing for a trophy with the fear that the club will be stuck with a manager whose tenure has become a demonstrable failure, but plenty will wrestle with that paradox when the whistle blows.
Anything can happen in football, though, and while that shot at a trophy exists, Blues fans will have to separate the two issues and let the chips fall regarding Martinez's future where they may. One thing at a time. Pride please, Everton.
Referee: Anthony Taylor