Monday, 23 April 2012

Did Man Utd go to sleep?

At about 2.10pm on Sunday 22nd April at Old Trafford, the champagne could have been put on ice for next Monday evening, the people who polish the Premier League trophy could have thought about leaving the red and white ribbons on for this season.

68 minutes into the league encounter with Everton, Manchester United took a 4-2 lead thanks to a well converted strike from Nani.  Twenty odd minutes left to endure, to see out the game and take a seven point lead into the Manchester derby at the Ethiad Stadium next Monday evening.

Yet a resilient Everton still smarting from a FA Cup semi-final defeat last weekend to their neighbours Liverpool, showed a true case of character as they scored two goals to snatch a 4-4 draw and spoil the Red Devils party atmosphere.  It was no surprise that once Everton got their 3rd goal the heavens opened to rain on the parade.

Yet this should not be considered a case of complacency or taking Everton lightly, as each goal the blue shirted men scored was true and down to their hard work throughout the game.  No deflected shots to bemoan, no dodgy officiating decision to bitch about - Everton scored four goals at Old Trafford and did not lose, they were value for the draw.

Everton took the lead, Nikica Jelavic sending a far post header back across a statuesque David de Gea.  United rightly responded with a Rooney header to equalise before half-time.

In the second half, United continued to prosper with Danny Welbeck curling a beautiful shot from the edge of the box when he sold a dummy to buy space.  Then Rooney rounded off a smart passing move to take a 3-1 lead, yet the Toffeemen would not go away.  Marouane Fellaini converted a Tony Hibbert cross with a smart volley when given room by the less than impressive Jonny Evans.

Then Nani's strike came to give a two goal cushion, yet their was never an air of comfort throughout the stadium.  And yet David Moyes did not give up.  Before the scoreline became 4-2, he introduced James McFadden a striker to operate as a man in the hole behind Jelavic and Fellaini who were becoming a handful for Rio Ferdinand and Evans.

McFadden became a passing option, his movement across in front of the front two becoming a worry as to who was to track him.  Phil Neville would then launch a ball into the box to the towering Fellaini.  The presence worked as both Ferdinand and Evans went to challenge for the aerial delivery, that left Jelavic free to convert his second with a sweetly struck volley from the dropping ball.

Immediately, after that Moyes brought on Tim Cahill for Sylvain Distin to throw caution to the wind and this added attacking presence led to the naivety of Rafael de Silva in defence to be shown up.  A neat passing move between Steven Pienaar and Fellaini led to Pienaar with acres of space to convert the equaliser.  Whilst people are pointing the finger at De Silva, Paul Scholes was also drawn into the ball rather than tracking the run of Pienaar who was untouched and ghosted into the path of Fellaini's return ball.

So yes maybe United did go to sleep, and Ferguson did bemoan the lack of his defence to stand up and be counted but this does a disservice to Everton's wonderful play and taking part in a great advert for the Premier League.

Thanks to Man City's 2-0 win at Wolves, City are three points behind and will go ahead of United on goal difference should they win next Monday.  City have the initiative, they have a home game and you can expect the atmosphere will be fierce.  Yet United can afford to draw and attempt to not lose, as they have games remaining afterwards against Swansea and Sunderland.

Ferguson says the ball is in City's court, yet United just have to go and not lose the game next week.  The emphasis is on City, if they want to win this League they better go and win this game.

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