By David Lynch
Writing off Manchester United
is a popular pastime amongst fans of the Premier League, and Monday night’s defeat to Everton
provided the perfect opportunity for further pessimism.
There’s always something
wrong with the Red Devils going into a new season, a flaw that will finally get the better of the canny Sir Alex Ferguson despite his side’s status as enduring title challengers. “This is finally the year!” the cynics cry, and yet the fall from grace never materialises. The red half of Manchester often smiles come May.
However, during this season's opener at Goodison Park, an oft-referenced weakness finally told. A deficiency exploited by just one man; Marouane Fellaini.
The Belgian produced a performance of awesome physicality and delicate creativity and, most importantly of all, scored Everton’s winner. In short he embodied everything that United’s midfield lacked and perhaps has done for quite some time, a fact which will no doubt lead to suggestions that this is a gap which should have been plugged this summer.
Of course, Ferguson’s most recent purchases would be the envy of any club in the world when viewed in isolation. Shinji Kagawa was an intelligent addition from Borussia Dortmund, the Japanese forward providing the perfect link between an advanced Wayne Rooney and the United midfield.
But the arrival of Robin van Persie for the vast sum of £24 million has seemingly posed more questions than it has answered for the Red Devils, the most pertinent of which being: “What about the midfield?”
United’s lack of control in the centre rarely mattered for much of last season, as their remarkable strength in the final third proved enough to dispatch of the Premier League’s lesser lights. But this soft underbelly was cruelly exposed during the latter stages as a draw with Everton and defeat to Manchester City saw Ferguson’s men surrender their lead and subsequently their title.
| FELLAINI MATCH STATS
SHOTS ON TARGET
AERIAL DUELS WON
| PLAYER RATING
A colossus in attack for the Toffees, winning everything aerially and showing great feet to bamboozle the visitors' defence. Fully deserved to be the man to put his side ahead with a towering header.