UNFORTUNATELY there was to be no repeat of last season’s 4-4 classic as a Toffees side lacking the dynamism which has been a feature of our play over the last 12 months wearily limped to defeat at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils’ quality is not in doubt however as has been the case lately we were architects of our own downfall.
United were getting plenty of joy down our left flank and as a result Baines spent the majority of the first half back peddling trying to deal with the threat of Rafael. Both goals shipped were the result of suspect defending with our high line for the second goal at best risky and at worst downright careless.
In the Goodison win earlier this season, Fellaini’s role was to receive long passes from our full backs and then feed the wide-midfielders. Having had his fingers burnt in that fixture, Ferguson designated Phil Jones as the Belgian’s minder to track his forward surges.
This basically neutralised Fellaini’s threat but it did mean that with Jones pulled out of position, Cleverley was outnumbered against Osman and Gibson.
As a result, Giggs was pulled inside to cover meaning we were able to exploit pockets of space in the centre and on the right flank in a 20 minute spell prior to half time when we had plenty of the ball despite really threatening.
Sadly this dominance was to be short-lived as Rooney was withdrawn into midfield to help steady the ship prior to half time.
United then played a ‘rest in possession’ approach and with our midfield looking rather leggy we struggled to get the ball back and when we did appeared too tired to do anything progressive with it.
Realistically, achieving fourth spot would now mean us having to win at both Spurs and Arsenal which on current form looks a big ask.
This makes the FA Cup a more realistic proposition and a win at Boundary Park this Saturday would leave the Toffees just one game away from a return trip to Wembley.
There has been a fair bit of change since Oldham unceremoniously dumped Liverpool out of the tournament last month.
Manager Paul Dickov was swiftly relieved of his duties whilst two goal hero Matt Smith hasn’t featured and fellow goalscorer Reece Wabara has signed for Blackpool.
They have also brought in additional resource in the shape of seasoned campaigner /lower league yard dog Chris Iwelumo.
Whereas the Liverpool duo of Skrtel and Coates struggled with the physical bombardment and bully boy tactics you would think players such as Jagielka – himself educated by an old-school tyrant in Neil Warnock – would be able to handle this type of ‘in your face’ threat and hopefully secure a safe passage into round six.