1. So there we go, this season starts in the same fashion that last season ended. Not playing very well, some nice moments, no defenders and disappointment. In the newsletter ahead of the game I said dropping points at Everton wasn’t the end of the world. I imagined we could draw there, with a defeat a possibility, so a 1-0 loss isn’t a big shock. Football is all about the small details. Everton delivered a corner to the player who heads the ball best in their team, whilst United repeatedly couldn’t beat the first man. They scored from a corner whilst we passed the ball to their man on the post. Standard.
2. It wasn’t a surprise when Fellaini scored, given how well he had been playing and how he won the ball more often than not, but it was a surprise that Michael Carrick, our stand-in centre half, was left to mark him. I realise that might have been what would have happened before Nemanja Vidic returned from injury but why wasn’t our captain, who deals with aerial threat better than any player we have, marking their danger man? Fellaini won the ball well and Everton deserved their lead.
3. Everton had the better chances in the game and thanks to David de Gea it was only one goal we conceded. His agility is outstanding and his reactions are impressive. There was no flapping from him tonight. Even though he’s still a skinny thing, not bulking up as we had been told he would, he definitely had more of a presence, which is great to see when playing such a physical team. He did his job and then some tonight, which is what we will need from him over the next few weeks whilst we’re waiting for our players to return from injury.
4. It stands to reason we weren’t as sharp as we could have been defensively, given our injuries, but there was no excuse for us being so wasteful in the final third. Some of the football we played tonight was impressive. Some lovely passing, lots of it one touch, great vision, but it amounted to very little. Everton kept us out well, but when we did get behind them, we couldn’t find our men in the box. Welbeck and Rooney both had a chance or two that you’d like to see them put away on different days, but Danny got out-muscled and Rooney hit his straight at the keeper/off target. With the likes of Rooney, Welbeck, Scholes, Kagawa, Cleverley, Nani, Young, Van Persie, we shouldn’t be finding it so difficult to at least create chances, but we did.
5. Rooney looks unfit and overweight. We all know he likes his booze and he’s a smoker but this season he’s started worse for wear. He was panting a lot, his shirt was piss wet through with sweat and he struggled to dictate/keep up with the pace of the game. Rooney rarely plays well at Goodison Park though, so hopefully he will have himself sorted out by the weekend. He wasn’t alone though I suppose. As a group, we looked nowhere near as match fit or up for it as the Everton players did.
6. Aside from De Gea’s performance, Shinji Kagawa’s debut was a shining light for us tonight, with him keeping the ball, moving well and picking out passes. He already seems to have a good understanding with Rooney which you would only expect to improve. He looks to be the quality signing we all hoped he would be, continuing on with his good form from the pre-season, and I’m really exited to have him at United. Robin van Persie’s 20 minute cameo was less impressive, although he did manage to beat the first man with one of his corners, which is a step up from Nani’s contribution. Still, the sight of Van Persie in a United shirt is one to behold. He hasn’t had much of a pre-season and it will take him time to get match fit. Hopefully he will start at the weekend and we will start to see the best of him soon. It still hasn’t really sunk in that he’s one of our players though.
7. I like Nani a lot but he wins the title of the worst player on the pitch tonight. He rightly drives a lot of people crazy because he is clearly so skilful but so regularly seems to do the wrong thing when it matters. How can a player who can kill the ball dead like he does, beat players like he does, score goals like he can, repeatedly manage to hit the first defender with his crosses? It drives me bonkers. The knee-jerk reaction from some is to get rid, given that his contract situation has still not be resolved, but that would be ridiculous. He’s annoying but he’s quality and he’ll get there.
8. There were plenty of raised eye-brows over the inclusion of Dimitar Berbatov on the bench and no Javier Hernandez, who Chelsea reportedly made an enquiry over last week. Aside from the fact that Berbatov is taller and has more strength, which would be important during this injury crisis, as well as having played in defence against Leeds last season, Hernandez played for 90 minutes in Mexico’s 1-0 defeat in a friendly to the USA last Wednesday in Mexico City. So let’s not get worked up about things that aren’t worth it, eh.
9. Onwards and upwards. We didn’t play well, Everton did, and their ability to find a man from a corner won them the game. I fully expect us to get points on the board at the weekend, so let’s not get too stressed over opening day defeat.