EVERTON 1, MAN UNITED 0
Manchester United has no answer to Mauro Fellaini’s “monstrous” performance as they made a faltering start to their bid to win back their Barclays Premier League title.
Belgium international Fellaini not only scored Everton’s matchwinning goal at Goodison Park but was generally unplayable and the scourge of the Reds.
“Fellaini was monstrous. He was the difference between the teams,” admitted former United player turned television pundit Gary Neville.
After Everton’s 4-4 draw at Old Trafford late last season, which dealt a massive blow to their title bid, United experienced further pain at the hands of the Merseysiders.
And but for an excellent display from United goalkeeper David de Gea it could conceivably have been an even heavier defeat.
On a night when United handed a debut to new £24million signing Robin van Persie – he played for the last 22 minutes – Sir Alex Ferguson must have been concerned by his side’s failings.
United enjoyed massive territorial advantage but were unable to translate that into goals and for that matter many meaningful chances.
Injuries to Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling caused a defensive crisis as midfield man Michael Carrick was forced to play at centre back alongside Nemanja Vidic who was playing his first game for eight months having recovered from a cruciate knee ligament injury.
Antonio Valencia was preferred to Rafael da Silva at right back while there was a midfield three of Paul Scholes, Tom Cleverley and Kagawa and frontline of Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Nani.
United made an uneasy start as Nani and Scholes were both booked in the opening 13 minutes.
Spanish keeper de Gea pulled off important saves to deny Steven Pienaar twice, Fellaini and Leon Osman in the first half.
United, who enjoyed 64-per-cent possession in the opening period, also had their moments as Everton keeper Tim Howard did well to keep out a free kick from Rooney while Nani and Welbeck each shot narrowly wide.
Osman was denied by the underside of the crossbar as his shot somehow stayed out as United enjoyed a further slice of luck.
What turned out to be the matchwinner came in the 57th minute when Fellaini outjumped Carrick to head home Darron Gibson’s corner from six yards.
Cleverley had the misfortune of seeing his shot beat Howard only to be cleared off the line by Phil Jagielka.
United introduced van Persie with 22 minutes left and later Ashley Young and Anderson in a bid to salvage something from the game.
Van Persie played a delightful pass to release Kagawa who would have scored had Howard not dashed from his line to block at his feet.