David Moyes suffered a painful defeat against former club Everton as Bryan Oviedo’s late goal gave them their first victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford in 21 years. In an entertaining, high-tempo contest that belied its lack of goals, both sides had chances to get on the scoresheet before Oviedo, playing in place of injured United transfer target Leighton Baines, struck the only goal with just four minutes remaining.
The result means that United fall five points behind Moyes’s former side in the Premier League table and, more pertinently, 12 points off leaders Arsenal. On chances created by either side, Moyes can count himself somewhat unfortunate to have come out a loser in his first match against the club he left in order to replace Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer. Yet, his replacement at Everton, Roberto Martinez, deserves much credit, and bested his predecessor in the coaching stakes on the night.
In contrast to how Everton regularly set up under Moyes at the homes of the Premier League big guns, the former Wigan coach had his side play with admirable positivity from the off. While on the balance of the 90 minutes, which saw both sides hitting the woodwork, a draw would perhaps have been a fair outcome, Martinez was rewarded for his boldness, even in the closing minutes.
That was the way that Everton started too, putting United under pressure both with and without the ball. Romelu Lukaku was giving Nemanja Vidic plenty of problems with his power and pace, while Kevin Mirallas had a good effort tipped over by David de Gea.
While United’s midfield of former Everton man Marouane Fellaini and Ryan Giggs was struggling against their Everton counterparts, and particularly Gareth Barry, the home side had more than their fair share of chances. Tim Howard saved well from Shinji Kagawa, while Giggs headed a presentable chance wide from a near-post cross.
In United’s best spell of the match just before the half-hour mark, Everton were also grateful for the intervention of the post to keep out Wayne Rooney’s deflected effort before Howard reacted well to take the ball away from Kagawa.
It was Everton, though, that had more control of the game in midfield, while, against a United side lacking dynamism in midfield, they were also better at getting men forward to support attacks; quite a statement for an away side at Old Trafford.
For the second match in succession, Moyes’s tactics warrant questioning as he seemingly forgot the fine performance produced in thrashing Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 just two weeks ago. With Robin van Persie still absent, again Moyes added Danny Welbeck to the lineup, but put him through the middle meaning that Kagawa was wasted on the left flank to leave United with a badly unbalanced side both with and without the ball.
The opportunities they did create came weren’t form coherent, flowing attacking moves. Such was the case when Patrice Evra’s header from a corner was saved by Howard before Welbeck wasted a golden chance from the rebound by heading against the bar.
Moyes tried to change things by bringing on Nani and Adnan Januzaj, but it was Everton that grabbed what could prove to be a decisive goal for both Moyes and Martinez at their new clubs. Mirallas’s free-kick struck the post, but Everton kept the move alive and when Lukaku’s low cross-shot deflected, somewhat aptly, off of Fellaini, United’s defenders were left in a motionless daze to allow Oviedo to charge in at the back post and find the net.
Everton remain in fifth, level on points with Liverpool above them and have a Champions League place firmly in their sights. For Moyes, whose side languish down in ninth spot, a top-four berth is increasingly beginning to look the limit of what he can get Manchester United to achieve in what is becoming an ever more arduous first season at Old Trafford.