AFTER the ear-bashing from the noisy neighbours, this was supposed to be the unnerving roar in the face from the enemy up the road for Manchester United but in the end Sir Alex Ferguson’s troops had little trouble negotiating a gentle early afternoon stroll at Goodison Park.
The joke doing the rounds last week was that Ferguson’s wife shook him out of bed last Monday morning shouting: “Wake up Alex – it’s seven” only for the veteran manager to respond: “No! They haven’t scored again have they?”
Fans on Merseyside shouldn’t be laughing at United’s derby humiliation to City though. United are still a great side, even when they’re not performing at their best and all the previous weekend’s scoreline at Old Trafford showed is that there are now TWO Manchester teams guaranteed to finish above both Everton and Liverpool.
Maybe it was the early start at Goodison Park – “I find it difficult to understand why today’s match should have to kick-off at midday…I just hope the atmosphere isn’t affected” began David Moyes in his programme notes – but Everton never seemed to display that ‘in-your-face’ aggression that the Scot’s hardworking teams have made their trademark.
Yes Tim Cahill and skipper Phil Neville – whose tackle on Cristiano Ronaldo sparked this corresponding fixture to life three years ago – were both out injured but Everton just did not make this an uncomfortable afternoon as it should have been for the Red Devils.
There’s a healthy mutual appreciation between Moyes and his fellow Glaswegian Ferguson with the Everton manager declaring how he likes to share a drink after the game with his United counterpart ‘win, lose or draw’ but during the 90 minutes on the pitch, the visitors were given far too easy a ride.
The hosts had plenty of possession but after the champions had got themselves in front through an early Javier Hernandez goal, they were able to just soak up any Everton pressure that came their way.
A couple of days before Halloween, Goodison Park should have been a cauldron for United’s talented but nervy young keeper David De Gea but instead of stinging his palms, the most pain the Spaniard felt was a shot that his him on the nose amongst a series of powder puff finishes.
Given the gaping chasm in respective finances, Moyes described facing United’s neighbours City as “Going into a gunfight with a knife” but if Everton were ever going to get anything out of this contest then it would have been by ‘death through a thousand cuts’ for the visitors because they were never likely to bludgeon a decisive killer blow.
Of late, Moyes has alluded to his frustrations of being cast adrift from Premier League’s money men as he desperately tries to keep his team competitive at the right end of the table.