United returned to Premier League action after their dismal defeat the previous week to rivals Manchester City, with a trip to Everton, starting a run of games which will most likely be pivotal in the reds chances in retaining their title. Having struggled of late on Merseyside, United were always in for a difficult afternoon, but were greatly boosted by the return of Nemanja Vidic to bolster what had been a leaky defence and Tom Cleverley to inject some much needed energy into the midfield. Rio Ferdinand and Anderson were the only casualties in the wake of the City debacle, with United opting for an attacking looking side, containing Hernandez, Welbeck and Rooney in a make shift formation.
With Everton weary of a wounded United bouncing back emphatically, the home side looked to take the game to the reds early, and Seamus Coleman nearly opened the scoring within a minute after a mazy run into the United box, but his shot was tame and easily saved by De Gea. However, despite the early scare United settled into their rhythm, with the reintroduction of Cleverley bringing a remarkable change to what had been largely lacklustre performances since his injury. Some fantastic work by Welbeck down the left hand side presented Park a great opportunity to break the deadlock, the Korean’s shot however was straight at ex red Tim Howard, denying United a perfect nerve settling start.
With the pressure building, it seemed a matter of time until the deadlock was broken and on 20 minutes the pressure told, as a rare inch perfect Patrice Evra cross found Javier Hernandez unmarked at the back post allowing the Mexican to tap in from 6 yards and give United a deserved lead. With Fergie critical of United’s tendancy this season to over comit and surrender too many chances to the opposition, the reds seemed content with a goal lead, stroking the ball around well and frustrating Everton. Nemanja Vidic was showing exactly why he had been so dearly missed in previous weeks with a colossal performance, marshalling the defence with great authority and providing leadership which was criminally lacking against City. Leighton Baines came close to levelling for Everton, thundering a free kick against the bar, in a rare moment of discomfort for the helpless De Gea, who gratefully watched on.
A comfortable first half for United was followed by a nail biting second one, as Everton pressed for an equaliser against a determined United rear guard action. Chances were a rarity, as Vidic and Evans provided the defensively solidity United are usually renowned for, and which has been alarmingly lacking so far this campaign. De Gea was forced into a smart diving save from Jack Rodwell, with the Spanish keeper using the rather unconventional method of saving with his face to deny the Everton midfielder. Whilst United were largely pinned back, they continued to look dangerous on the break, and a delightful cross field pass from Hernandez found Welbeck, who chested down and forced a smart save from Howard. A worrying injury to Cleverely on the hour mark ended United’s attacking threat in the game, but with Rooney sitting deep in midfield, and with Vidic in fine form, there was little alarm in the closing stages as the reds ground out a vital 3 points in a difficult fixture. Next up for United, the visit of Oletul Galati in the champions league.
De Gea – 6 Did what he had to do well.
Jones – 6 Solid defensive performance, played with discipline.
Vidic – 8 MOTM Captain’s performance, exhibition in defending.
Evans – 7 Partnered Vidic admirably. Recovered well from last weeks red card.
Evra – 7 Great assist for the goal.
Cleverley – 7 Provided tempo which has sorely been lacking.
Fletcher – 6 Improvement on recent weeks.
Park – 6 Energetic and provided transition between midfield and attack.
Rooney – 7 Took to a deeper midfield role very well, added solidity.
Hernandez – 6 All round disappointing performance, but once again a vital winning goal.
Welbeck – 6 Started brightly, faded later in the game.
Nani – 6 Allowed United an outlet whilst under pressure.
Valencia – 6 Added extra width and different problems for Everton.
Berbatov – 6 Failed to really carry on from good performance on Tuesday.