Everton 3 – United 0. Did the United players go into yesterday’s game believing they’d already secured Champions League qualification? After the performance I saw and what Louis van Gaal said in his post-match press conference, we may be lead to believe that they did.
If that is the case then they’re wrong. Yes Liverpool drew away at West Brom on Saturday but with them having a game in hand still, all is to play for in my opinion. After recent good performances United may feel that’s it’s job done and they can take the foot off the gas, but that clearly defeats the point of getting those recent great results. Saying that, unbeknown to the new manager, players and some fans, it might be that playing Everton at the end of April is just the wrong time of the year.
In 2011 at the end of April we struggled against them until a solitary late 83rd minute Javier Hernandez header gave us victory. Three weeks later that win did help us clinch our 19th league title. A year later though on April 22nd it went the other way and most say this is when United blew the title that year. Four goals to two up and bizarrely charging forward looking for a fifth when Everton came back to grab two late goals to earn a draw. Two points dropped and a defeat to local rivals City in the next game allowed them to go on and eventually win their first Premier League.
Funnily enough, April 22nd the following year United won the league back with 3-0 home victory against Aston Villa for Ferguson’s 13th and final league title with United. From this, Ferguson left and went on to be succeeded by a certain David Moyes from Everton. Exactly a year later on April 22nd yet again Moyes was sacked just two days after losing 2-0 away at Everton, more significantly though the result confirmed United could no longer qualify for the Champions League.
Three minutes and fifty seconds into this game then and with United having all the ball, Everton broke from our corner and fifteen seconds later the ball was in between De Gea’s legs for a second week running and in the back of the net, McCarthy the scorer this time. We never recovered from that, we still had lots of possession but mentally we were shell shocked and we just created nothing decisive even with Luke Shaw having some success around the back early on. Ten minutes before half time after two identical corners attempts with no success, Everton tried again and Stones made it 2-0.
United started the second half with intent, by that I just mean they made a more attacking substitution, Falcao on for Fellaini. However we still just huffed and puffed with no real clear cut chance being made and Everton’s defence under no real pressure. Our defenders then stopped for what was a valid offside decision against Lukaku, (I do wonder if the linesman flag actually went up), anyway no one spotted Mirallias’ run from deep and he made it three. Game over.
Job done by Everton and they fully deserved their victory, we must hold our hands up and say “they did us” but now it’s time to re-focus. With an away trip to Palace at Selhurst Park and Arsenal at home still to come, three points is essential at Old Trafford against West Brom this Saturday.
Liverpool’s actual game in hand is away at Hull tomorrow, so the gap could be just four points with four games to go by next weekend. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pains me to say “I hope we get fourth and don’t lose out to Liverpool” as I believe we should always be aiming for that top spot. You get no trophy for finishing second, third or fourth but some fans, pundits and board members may believe Champions League qualification is a “success” but is it more important than winning things?