Ferguson feels Fellaini’s force as United lose face

EVERTON 1 vs MANCHESTER UNITED 0

MANCHESTER United manager Sir Alex Ferguson refused to blame his makeshift defence after Everton began their season in uncharacteristically promising fashion with a vital home victory.

A headed goal from the immensely impressive Marouane Fellaini gave David Moyes’s men a well-deserved win on a night where their uninspirational visitors looked some way short of their match-winning best and failed to fashion an almost-routine comeback against their unfancied opponents.

“Centre-back is a problem but we coped quite well, I don’t think you can criticise their performance in that respect,” said Ferguson, whose side now trail title rivals Manchester City and Chelsea by three points. “It was just difficult to handle him when they were knocking these balls up to [Fellaini].

“Michael [Carrick] did fine, good on the ball and applied himself well, they all applied themselves well.

“We played good football, good combination play, on another day we would have won the match.”

Though Everton were the ones defiantly defending by the end of the evening, it was the away side who were perhaps the more fortunate towards the match’s start. Goalkeeper David de Gea, continuing the fine form with which his first season ended, produced several sensational saves to dismiss the danger posed by promising efforts from Steven Pienaar, Leighton Baines and Leon Osman, and was only beaten when a headed effort from the latter menacingly struck against the bar.

The home side – possibly scenting the opportunity presented by the absence of the injured Rio Ferdinand, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans – sought to maintain an aerial pressure on understudy Michael Carrick and when the impressive Fellaini jumped beyond him to powerfully head in from Baines’s 57th-minute corner, it served both as confirmation of an anticipated weakness and as a microcosm of that that had ultimately won the game.

The tenacious Phil Jagielka became key when clearing off the line from United midfielder Tom Cleverley but when £24m signing Robin van Persie arrived from the bench the away side’s anticipated, glorified comeback simply failed to materialise.

The striker did little as an influence throughout and Everton simply negated any remaining United threat.