United powerless to stop a Fellaini inspired Everton
Everton 1-0 Manchester United
Manchester United suffered their first opening day defeat since 2004 at Goodison Park as the debut of summer signing Robin van Persie was overshadowed by a commanding performance from Everton’s Belgium stalwart Marouane Fellaini. From the outset, a United defence struggling to cope with the loss of four central defenders, were unable to come to terms with the directness and strength of an Everton side normally known for being slow starters.
Sir Alex Ferguson, who also handed a Premier League debut to new signing Shinji Kagawa, was forced to play Michael Carrick alongside Nemanja Vidic in defence after Rio Ferdinand picked up an injury in training. Despite an even start in which both sides exchanged attacks, it did not take long for Everton to take a stranglehold on the match with Fellaini and Jelavic in particular proving more than a handful.
Everton were unlucky not to take a lead into the break, with Fellaini striking the post having beaten Michael Carrick for both strength and pace. Everton, backed by raucous home support, continued to threaten the United back line who had David De Gea to thank after the Spaniard produced a series of fine saves to deny Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman. United rarely created any goal scoring opportunities, with a Wayne Rooney free kick comfortably saved by Tim Howard the closest they came.
After a quiet start to the second half, it did not take the home side to continue where they had left off, and continued to create chances at will. In a typically dominant spell for the home side, Leon Osman was unlucky with a rasping shot that rattled the bar, and a number of set pieces unsettled the makeshift United defence. It was from yet another Everton corner that led to Everton taking a well deserved lead. A corner from United reject Darron Gibson, found Fellaini, who for the umpteenth time got the better of Carrick to powerfully divert the ball into the bottom corner past a helpless De Gea.
Despite dominating possession in the latter stages through the likes of Scholes and Cleverley, as well as the introduction of Van Persie, United failed to create any clear cut chances, and were restricted to aimless balls into the Everton penalty area, dealt with easily by a dominant home defence. As the final whistle blew, Everton players and fans alike celebrated a famous victory. Sylvain Distin epitomised the effort that had gone into his sides display, needing assistance in leaving the field, after collapsing with shear exhaustion.
United will be looking to pick up their first points of the season as they take on Fulham on Saturday, in which Van Persie will most likely receive his first start.
James Fuller, football correspondent