Everton lose away at Man United, nothing new there. And for most teams a narrow defeat at Old Trafford is not something to be ashamed of. The frustrating thing is though we never seem to do ourselves justice away from home against Sir Alex Ferguson’s men. We meekly give in or bravely try to hold on – often doing both in the same game. And given we have spent much of the last six or seven years in the top eight of the Premier League, we should be making life much harder for the Red Devils on their own turf.
I would like to say now that I’m not having any of this ‘Moyes doing favours for his pal Fergie’ nonsense. Whether Moyes wants the Man United job in the future or not he is not in the business of losing football matches and goes into each game – regardless of the opposition – with a fierce will to win.
His failure though to ever take three points from Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford, Anfield or the Emirates is telling. I feel we go there with such an inferiority complex our attacking game becomes stunted, and we instead rely on gritty last ditch-defending.Luckily this is something we are good at. Give Everton a lead with 10 minutes left and there aren’t much better teams at hanging on and putting their body on the line to do so than the boys in blue.
But we can’t be expected to do that for 90 minutes, especially against a team like Manchester United. Phil Jagielka and Tim Howard in particular had outstanding games on Saturday but they were made to do too much in my opinion as every time we made a clearance it would re-bound straight back at us.
Jermaine Beckford cut and lonely figure in the first half and his lack of quality really told – he needs to be on the end of things rather than trying to create himself. The introduction of Tim Cahill and Victor Anichebe were an obvious antidote to that, but Cahill’s lack of fitness and Anichebe’s lack of ability meant we couldn’t hold the ball up in United’s half for more than a few seconds. For that reason I have no complaints with the result, even though the winner came with seven minutes left and from an Everton mistake.
It is a bit harsh to expect Everton to pick up points regularly from tough away grounds but their record at Old Trafford is frankly embarrassing. A bit more ambition and freedom, especially from the midfielders, may have carved out a few opportunities or would have at least given the over-worked defence a rest – it was defence versus attack for much of the 90 minutes. Our great record at Man City proves we can win away from home against the top sides so why do we freeze at Anfield and Old Trafford?
It reminds me of our once annual hammerings at White Hart Lane and Elland Road back in the 90s, two grounds where we never seemed to win – for Leeds it stretched back 51 years!
It took a fresh, bold, fearless approach from a young David Moyes to blow those records away but I wonder whether he has the answer to this latest hoodoo?
I hate to be negative after such a game as losing to Man United away is nothing to be embarrassed about, and there have been plenty worse performances in this bizarre, topsy-turvy season.
But it was the predictability of the defeat that irks me - and the fact we will no doubt do the same next season.