Sifting through what remains of our disappointing opening day loss I’m heartened by how much of it I’ve been able to purge already, not that the how and why is something we should disregard completely.
Teams are going to steel themselves, as they always do, for the visit of United (or any of the big boys). The players and fans feel it a great opportunity to record a historic or lasting victory. Its not just three points, but a scalp to display proudly for years and years. That’s precisely what a gritty, determined and entirely deserving Everton achieved at Goodison.
Sort of like a best and fairest or MVP, the votes out of 10 will become a guide to my three best-performed United players. The votes will be tallied, tabulated and accumulated across the season to deliver my MVP.
Manchester United 0
David De Gea – 8/10
Encouraging. Had a sensational first half in terms of both positioning and shot stopping. Saved well from Pienaar on the turn and low to his left through traffic and knew exactly where Baines was putting a dangerous free kick, getting to it with plenty of time to paw it away. His distribution, too, was a highlight. An early long ball set Nani off, sailing well over the Everton defensive line and requiring an inch perfect intervention from a scampering Distin to diffuse the situation.
Commentators predictably made too much of a contest that felled him in the first half, disregarding it wasn’t a body but an elbow that made contact to his face. An overzealous Fellaini clattered the Spaniard with a raised arm connecting and left him reeling. Apparently De Gea ‘should’ve done better’. Its early season for them too.
Antonio Valencia – 5/10
Not particularly good or bad, just sort of there. Tried to push up and provide service into the box as often as he could, importantly doing so without neglecting his defensive duties. Wasn’t a liability or found out at the back, but couldn’t unlock Everton when he had the chance and it was most required. Not alone on that front.
Michael Carrick – 4/10
It’s hard to be too critical of the central midfielder playing central defense. To start the season without Jones, Evans, Smalling and Ferdinand makes our defense understandably vulnerable. We’ve just got to cope better than we did tonight. In the seconds before the goal I wondered why Carrick was marking the impressive Felliani, a man who dined out on an undersized United midfield and tormented an under strength United defense all night. He and us were made to pay the ultimate and decisive price. He wasn’t exposed for lack of positional sense, though, which is commendable. Unsurprisingly he looked far more comfortable when playing the ball to feet and slightly more advanced. Bet he can’t wait for the return of some defensive cover.
Nemanja Vidic – 5/10
Wasn’t too bad, but his failure to identify the threat of Fellaini at the set piece cost us the crucial goal. Torn, I know, between Felliani, Distin or Jagielka, all threats in the air, he needed to pull rank and accept the Belgian was the biggest and most likely risk. Aside from that he was reasonably tidy and battled successfully to keep Nikita Jelavic under wraps. We were under siege a fair bit and Vidic was rarely the avenue they took when launching attacks, understandable and justified given his ability. More than anything its good to have him back, it’ll hearten him naught, but he got through the game.
Patrice Evra – 5/10
Sort of like his fellow fullback, really. He attempted to provide support forward and did just about enough to win or at least halve his position. Good to see him observing the traditional positioning of a left back, a change in his attitude from most of last season.
Paul Scholes – 6.5/10
A competent display from Scholes with a trademark tackle thrown in for good measure. It was late, crude and kinda sorta everything we’ve come to love about Paul. He controlled the play when we had the ball, knocking it around and feeding our impotent strikers and wingers all night for no reward. Credit to the Everton defence and midfield for denying him even the slightest opening. Its testament to their organization that not even a half chance was created from Scholes’ boot. Still, he plugged away and put in a decent shift.
Tom Cleverley – 5/10
Too small to go toe-to-toe with Felliani in midfield, with not enough physical grunt to negate the Everton destroyer or compliment his natural ability in this case. He ran all night, battling manfully to compete and ignite, attempting to get things going, but his game sort of typified the whole side’s: just not quite good enough to get the job done.
Nani – 1/10
I certainly hope there was a reason he hit so many crosses and corners into the first man. Maybe he was under the impression there was meant to be a run to the near post; maybe this was a tactic they talked about during the week that only Nani remembered. Either way he was a liability when on the ball because of the standard of his distribution. Sometimes players can have a bad game, that’s fine, but Nani’s dire performance was exacerbated by how prominent he was. It was a bit like Osama Bin Laden hiding in the White House. The situation wasn’t as though he was anonymous and couldn’t get involved, or like he wasn’t trying, not at all, it was just every time he was on the ball nothing of value to the team cause occurred. Unless you take the long-term view that eventually it all added up to his substitution.
Shinji Kagawa – 8.5/10 (United Man of the Match)
Without doubt or hesitation the bright spot of an otherwise dismal defeat. He was buzzing around the pitch with an efficiency and economy reminiscent of and comparable to the terrific David Silva. His first foray into the English game was epitomized by caution more than cunning; a restrained opening 10-15 minutes saw the Japanese play within himself whilst he got up to speed. During that time he touched the ball often, with his passing helping to create a tempo (which sadly didn’t amount to much early) thanks to quick and creative movement on and off the ball.
His first promising moment saw him take control near to half way, raise his eyes sharply and play a brilliantly weighted through ball to Danny Welbeck. Three Everton defenders were on the back foot as they closed on goal and only immense pressure applied by Phil Jagielka meant the United striker slid his shot wide from the edge of the area.
A moment of awareness, creativity and selflessness in the second half produced our best chance of the match. From the chaos of a decent ball into the box (I was as shocked as the players, I’m sure) Kagawa flew before darting around to the fall of the ball. With his back to goal and Tim Howard approaching he guided a short ball to the unmarked Cleverley, taking the Everton keeper completely out of the game, who’s shot was turned off the line by an act of desperate defence.
A wonderful start to a promising United career, Kagawa looks the real deal.
Wayne Rooney – 2/10
Whoever’s idea it was to strap trampolines to Wayne’s feet should reconsider that tactic. Well off the pace, he was caught in possession too many times to count. I’m not quite sure why he thought he had the amount of time he did when just outside the area. Slowing to a walk 20-odd yards from goal… that’s the killbox, Wayne, it’s where the highest concentration of defenders are always stationed. He warmed into the game as it wore on, improving gradually; although what improvement there was was only noticeable due to the rather poor nature of his first half.
Danny Welbeck – 5/10
Grafted manfully for little to no reward. Wasn’t necessarily beaten by his opponent(s), just couldn’t inflict damage enough to win the contest himself. Was certainly more lively and likely than the very off-color Wayne Rooney, with the inevitable injustice being his withdrawal instead of the #10 after about an hour.
Note: Those who play less than half an hour will be graded out of 5.
Robin van Persie – 2/5
His deployment from the substitute bench for Danny Welbeck was a signal of intent made after the fact. It seemed as though we were content to hang on and let the Dutchman loose at 0-0 with about half an hour to go, even though it was plain for all to see the more likely team to score was Everton. His substitution seemed reactive more than proactive, the better scenario would’ve seen a striker sacrificed at the half to chase the go ahead goal rather than the equalizer. The poor cross virus must have infected the whole squad, as his first involvement in a United shirt was to crash a corner into the first man. Spent too much time too wide to really affect the contest and was crowded out whenever the ball went his way. Provided one good moment when he played a low, sqaure ball into the path of Kagawa, who would have poked home from 4 or 5 yards but for Howard’s pesky intervention.
Ashley Young – 2/5
A long overdue replacement for the astoundingly wasteful Nani on the left wing, he provided some width and was on the ball often enough, but seemed timid and unwilling to put the ball into the box. It was that sort of night though, even when he did it was either over hit, under hit or we didn’t look like getting anywhere near it.
Anderson – 2/5
Liked his intent and preparedness to be proactive. His long-range effort was speculative, but the opening was there and the ball just tailed off the wrong side of the post. Injected some energy and urgency as we chased what was looking like, and eventually proved to be, a lost cause.
Shinji Kagawa: 3
David De Gea: 2
Paul Scholes: 1