So Manchester United combined two players who scored 57 goals last season, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, for a total of 22 minutes. It didn’t help them score a goal or come out of Goodison Park with a point, losing 1-0 to Everton due to a fantastic header and match from Marouane Fellaini.
Maybe it had something to do with the rise of Belgian football, sending an influx of players into the Premier League while Belgium beat the Netherlands in a friendly (4-2) before the season began, but maybe it simply had to do with the fact that David Moyes prepared his players much better to an aggressive opening match for both sides, which gave us a Manchester United team that struggled to create chances for 65 minutes, being outplayed and dominated by Everton’s industrious midfield.
Moyes simply created an advantage in the middle by using Maroune Fellaini in a more advanced role than he’s gotten used to, making use of skills and physical presence in more than just tackling and trying to take balls from Paul Scholes and Tom Cleverley in the middle of the pitch. There was no true striker for Everton, with Fellaini and Jelavic constantly swapping positions, while Gibson, Neville and Steven Pienaar kept drifting into the middle to create an advantage.
It wasn’t that Shinji Kagawa did badly on his debut for United. He played well and supplied both the wing men (Nani and Valencia) and Wayne Rooney with good passes, but the front three were having a bad day all at once. Robin van Persie coming in at the 68th minute went unnoticed, as his only touches on the ball came from taking corner kicks and nothing much else worth mentioning.
Alex Ferguson has had bad starts to the season before. It actually seems that in recent seasons, it’s mostly been about bad starts. But it wasn’t the result that was so bothering as much as the way United looked. The same problem that hounded them last season against packed midfield or simply better midfield units – quality in the middle of the park and the need to play Michael Carrick as a centre back which didn’t exactly help the cause.
There will be better days for United and Everton won’t be able to maximize their better traits each day without the proper motivation playing at home against Manchester United provides, but shiny new objects you bought don’t always get you points and wins straight away, especially if you haven’t addressed bigger needs, which had nothing to do with the man upfront. Robin van Persie will do well for United, but he wasn’t necessarily the player Manchester United needed more than anything.