Ferguson v Ferguson
Hoping for away wins at the parks of Goodison and Fratton, 50% of my wishes came true. The other 50%, well, couldn't believe the performance of the side who came out against Everton, pertaining to be Man Utd. The thing is in that match, Everton expected Man Utd to come at them, so did fans and punters alike. So Everton held ground and waited and received and sucked up and ejected back towards Utd's goal. The Red Devils looked to have very little in their tank to drive themselves to create, much less score. When I look on the Everton defence that night, of Hibbert, Weir, Yobo and Watson, missing were Pistone and Stubbs, and to think they combined to give Ronaldo, VNR and anyone one emerging from midfield little change out of their chances, it is testament to their courage Wednesday night. There's the question again: were Everton too good or Man Utd too slack?
VNR maybe considered match rusty but he'd come from the Millenium stadium having tormented the Newcastle defence with his movement and two goals. Ronaldo was the same, yet while he tried to create openings, they were equal to those he fluffed. It must have been frustrating to be waiting in the box for his ball over and then find after 2-3 stepovers the ball's gone off in favour of the opposition. In contrast, Ferguson was putting himself about Ferdinand and Brown, and to some degree the ex-West Ham and Leeds defender was enjoying the monopoly of balls coming their direction. So for some reason in the second half Ferdinand switched off when Everton crossed from their freekick, because Ferguson scored practically a free header. If you're man-marking, you're marking the man, so why leave him?? Was there a man on the post?
As for the sending-offs, well. Gary Neville is getting stick from the nearest fans as he waits for a substitution to commence. How many times has he got stick? Talk about being professional, he forgot when Jamie Carragher was sent off against Arsenal in a FA Cup tie at highbury for throwing something back at a fan. Pires was reprimanded when he went to take a throw against Spurs and decided to feign thrusting the ball at a fan. Fans who give stick should get a 100mph ball on the face or keep to opening their mouths to cheer, not tointimidate players. Our FA lets them get away with it, but for the time being, and in the name of professionalism, players must keep cool and continue with the game. Man Utd were 17 mins away from defeat a goal down, the England right-back should have focused better than that.
Paul Scholes, looking to react like a rash on Arteta, is booked. So in the final stages of the match Kilbane goes past him and is too quick, Scholes hacks him down. Sir Alex saw fit to have a harsh word or eight hundred with David Moyes, I can't imagine why but the Everton gaffer retorted and had the final smile at the final whistle. There was no good reason to debate the sending-off, as clear as crystal. Sir Alex said Phil Dowd was a weak referee, who was exploited by Everton particularly because they had the home advantage. You didn't need a strong referee or home soil to send those two off. Sir Alex also said Scholes was sent off for a late challenge, several of which occured throughout the game and were not punished. Were they all Everton? And if there were other late challenges in the game, then Scholes was the best of them as his was so late it came via Royal Mail.
There were a number of chances, Martyn saved well from Scholes at close range, quite good for a 38 yr old keeper, and from shots from Ronaldo and Rooney, and there was a Hibbert clearance off the line from a corner. But Utd weren't dominating at all. I don't know why. With Ronaldo on one line maybe they needed Giggs on the other. With Yobo and Weir, two tall defenders, one aged but experience, the other fast, both head strong and have strength. Alan Stubbs is no better, a stubborn defender ready to put his head or feet in first for the cause. He was missing but his apprentices were hardly troubled. The difference was in the control on the break, Everton could pass it around and on the ball they were good enough to sometimes dance past players. MOTM for me was David Weir, good leadership.