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|Manchester United 4-4 Everton: Five observations as Toffees halt Red Devils title charge|
Everton stunned the Red Devils on a classic Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford with a crucial draw that might have a huge impact on the title run in. SoccerAnchor's Saikat Chatterjee analyses the talking points to come from the game..
Seemingly wrapped up in style at 4-2, Manchester United looked to have taken a giant stride towards a 20th league title. Having started the game in lethargic fashion the champions looked to take control of the game when they came out charging in the second half, to turn a one goal deficit into a two goal lead in no time. What was turning out to be a classic afternoon at Old Trafford turned on its head as Everton rocked the Red Devils with a quick-fire double in the closing stages to pull themselves level.
Here’s what went right, and wrong for both teams:
1. United’s inability to deal with the aerial balls: United’s vulnerability from aerial balls was evident as the Red Devils conceded thrice after failing to deal with crosses in the box. United centre-backs Johnny Evans and Rio Ferdinand clearly struggled against the physique and aerial prowess of Fellaini and Jelavic as the two Everton players outleaped them constantly and annihilated the United defence without fuss.
2. The red hot form of Nikica Jelavic: The Croat has been a revelation since his move to Merseyside from the Scottish outfit Rangers. With 8 goals from 12 games the prolific hitman has made an instant impact for the Toffees. The prospect of playing against United at Old Trafford intimidates an awful lot of players. Jelavic surely wasn’t one of them as the Everton striker put his team into the lead with a fantastic header in the first half. Trailing United by two goals Jelavic was in action again as he scored his second of the game and Everton’s third with seven minutes left to give his team the opening they had been looking for.
3. The impact of Marouane Fellaini: The fact that Everton came away with a point from Old Trafford was largely due to the Belgian’s impact on the game. Fellaini made life difficult for the Manchester United players with his strong physical influence and intelligent link up play. Almost unplayable at times United found it virtually impossible to contain the spirit and aggression of Fellaini. Deployed in the hole behind Jelavic, Fellaini wreaked havoc. Playing his part in two of Everton’s goals and scoring one himself, Fellaini was at the heart of everything Everton did.
4. Michael Carrick’s little contribution to the defence: Deservedly praised for playing a vital role in the upturn of United’s fortunes this season, the English midfielder looked increasingly complacent throughout the game. Playing at Old Trafford Carrick has often made his way into advanced positions this season. Played his part in the build-up to Nani’s goal. But his meagre contribution to the defensive side of the game hurt United badly. With Scholes’s tackling weaknesses in mind Ferguson finally decided to replace him with Phil Jones later in the game in order to add a bit of defensive depth to his midfield which virtually had no impact whatsoever.
5. The telepathic understanding of Rooney and Welbeck: Finding the right pair of strikers and developing a perfect chemistry between them is a tough nut to crack. Welbeck and Rooney certainly have no such problems. Such has been their combination this season that players like Hernandez and Berbatov have failed to break into the first team. With an almost telepathic understanding between themselves the two United forwards did it all. Responsible for all four of United’s goals the English duo split the Everton defence with incredible ease.
Despite all the huff and puff, Everton held on with admirable resilience to come away with a hard earned point. The draw will have no significant influence in the Toffees' league fortunes, but will certainly have dealt a huge blow to Manchester United, as it allowed their arch rivals Manchester City to close the gap between them to just three points. With the Manchester Derby knocking around the corner it seems like a ‘winner takes all’ situation is in store for the Manchester boys.
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