Oct 022014

Everton FC claimed their first victory at Old Trafford for 21 years with a memorable win last term – and got one over ex-manager David Moyes in the process. On Sunday they face Manchester United once again – but much has changed for their opponents.

We had a chat with United We Stand writer and street seller Steve Armstrong, who contributes to the fanzine which is in its 25th year of production, to get his views on Everton’s next Premier League opponents, and he believes things could be very different this time around.

Before we look ahead, it is probably worthwhile looking back. David Moyes – what happened?

I’ll try and be brief here. The most successful manager in history who’d won everything many times over retired and he convinced clueless owners and board members that someone who’d never won a thing and had next to no experience in the Champions League would be the perfect choice to take over. Something that made one half of Liverpool laugh loudly which was very soon followed by the other half.

The club then allowed the new manager to let go a stack of backroom staff who took with them decades of organisational history and replace them with people who’d failed at places like Leeds and Middlesborough. Then the manager of the champions by 11 points of 2013 started aspiring to be like City, plotting to make things difficult for Newcastle at Old Trafford, and suggesting to European and World Champions like Rio Ferdinand what he could learn from Phil Jagielka. Which sort of contrasted a little from what the club had become used to under the most successful manager ever and people in just about every corner of the club got a bit miffed about it.

Then he got sacked leaving us all with the awful quandary as to who we’d rather win the league out of two teams that more often than not occupy the top two places in many United’s fans biggest rival list. I think that just about covers it.

Roberto Martinez urges his team on VIEW GALLERY

Louis van Gaal is now the man tasked with taking United back into the Champions League. Are you happy with what you’ve seen so far? What has he changed from last season?

The type of appointment that should have been made last year has now been made. He’s a man who likes himself lots and isn’t one to shirk a confrontation. We like all that. Ferguson may have upset many with his outbursts on touchlines and at press conferences but he was a born winner and box office while he was at it.  A ruthless winner who wanted to fight the world no matter what as long as he won.

As a fan if that is on your touchline, a 70 year old man offering the world out you can’t help but get embroiled in such passion. Van Gaal has certain similarities but I’m yet to see him boil over.

I’m a traditionalist, I want the manager ranting in the technical area with a big coat on. Not sat calmly while holding an expensive bag. Maybe another Leicester type performance will bring him into his own. Swansea at home, Sunderland and Burnley away from what I can remember were grim. Milton Keynes and their existence as a club doesn’t sit well with me so to go there and get handed a 4-0 hammering in a cup competition we needed to stay in to get game time made it a very long journey home. So up until then the answer was no I wasn’t happy with what I’d seen, and not a lot had changed.

The transfer window doused the club in petrol and set it alight. Yes we spent a fortune that others perhaps can’t do, however that is what happens when something is neglected for so long. You eventually have to spend a fortune putting it right. United for years have under invested and relied on the absolute brilliance of Alex Ferguson. His title win in 2013 was just ridiculous really. We had no right to be even close. Last year exposed just how good he was and just how much surgery was needed. 

Di Maria is something very special. He’s brightened the place up. The bench, the pitch, the stands. Everywhere is smiling again. We look capable of scoring 10 going forward, and just as capable of letting the same amount in. That will get sorted when the defence return from A&E and maybe after the next transfer window.

I’m just enjoying going home and away and not having a clue what might happen. Last year’s monotony has been replaced with chaos. We sort of like that.

How has the season-long fall from grace affected the United fan base?

It’s hardly a fall from grace. It’s just a football club who’ve won loads for two decades now losing more frequently than we’ve become used to.

I wrote ages ago that it wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility that United’s dominance would end when Ferguson left. Maybe it has. The season long assumption is another interesting one. We’re currently 8th and have won just 2 of 6 league games, taking 8 points from a start that should have yielded 15 or more so we’re far from back on that perch we took.

Last season was a bit of a shock to a lot of people’s systems. Those born in the mid 80’s and started going in the mid 90’s have never seen United out of the top 3. Ryan Giggs has won a trophy every 29 games in his career or something like that. Imagine growing up as a fan and that being the norm? From that to getting rolled over three times a month and playing dreadfully was a lot for many to take.

I started going in 1978. I remember once being on a coach home after a postponed game which came on the back of 4 games without a goal and the pools panel giving us a score draw. That felt like a win. If you can buzz off that like we did you can deal with a season like the one we just had.

The support for Moyes all season meant a lot to him. He told United We Stand that and asked the Editor to thank the supporters for the backing he got. I want Moyes to pitch up somewhere and do well. Match going fans past and present recognise he was the wrong choice which wasn’t his fault and never did anything other than back him. Stunts like planes with banners on were just embarrassing and not the United way. Neither was the faceless ranting on twitter behind some childish pseudonym.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester United v Everton - Old Trafford Manchester United manager David Moyes after the final whistle during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Soccer – Barclays Premier League – Manchester United v Everton – Old Trafford Manchester United manager David Moyes after the final whistle during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester.

What do you think of the attack-minded activity in the summer? Is it enough to bring success?

All the really successful sides in my life have had one thing in common. Liverpool for the two decades they heaped on me, Arsenal in various parts, that superb Everton team of the early to mid 80’s. All of the really successful Ferguson sides at Old Trafford had superb defences. I haven’t forgot Chelsea and City by the way. I just mean sides where coaching and leadership meant more than being able to outbid everyone for anyone.

It’s ludicrous for anyone to think that titles and honours can be won without a strong back line. Not only strong, but playing regularly together.

Centre halves rarely get mentioned on their own. It’s always a pair like Thompson & Hansen. Adams & Keown. Bruce and Pallister. Success is defensive unit built. 

So in answer to the question of will the attack minded approach be enough to bring success then the answer for me is no.

In terms of what do I think of it? I love it. Players like what we have now get you out of your seat. They make grounds louder and they make going to the match an absolute buzz. I’ll take that over anything. United won’t win the league. I wasn’t of the opinion that we’d do enough to make the top 4 again but once you cut the top 2 out of it none of the others chasing the remaining two boardroom appeasing places look like they’re very well.

United look like the ones who might get better the quickest so maybe that and not having any European Football to deal with might be a route in.

I wanted to win the League Cup. Even if it has got three handles. I want us to win the FA Cup badly and I want to get back to travelling overseas with my mates. If Van Gaal delivers us that, he’ll get a drink out of me and I’ll class that as a successful step forward as opposed to success. Manchester United’s Angel Di Maria Leicester City’s Daniel Drinkwater battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match at the King Power Stadium,

On to Everton. The Blues won at Old Trafford last season. What do you perceive to be different from that day on both sides, and will it lead to a win for United?

This is going to sound odd. When Everton rocked up at Old Trafford last season we’d just come back from a 5-0 win away in Leverkusen and were unbeaten in 12 games prior to that. This year they arrive with us having just scraped home against West Ham on the back of caving in against Leicester. We’ve been ditched out of the League Cup and failed to win away in 4 games.

I think it says something about playing style that United fans are far happier now than we were last December. Despite what I’ve just said. United won’t have had European stuff to worry about midweek. Which might be good for on field stuff but I’m still personally sulking about that. I’ve got to go away with the missus now.

Everton playing away, pretty far away as well on Thursday and then being asked to play at noon on Sunday is just bang out of order. For players and for fans and I can’t see how that is fair to be honest. That’s going to make a big difference.

United will go all out early to win instead of setting out to not be losing at half time. Just loads of little things are where the differences are really and it should lead to a United win. I think.

Who do you fear most from the Blues’ side?

I mean this with the greatest respect but there isn’t anyone to fear.

What is there though is a tactically astute manager who thinks before and during games and a very good collection of players who are the example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Everton this year and last were a team I was wary of despite not really looking at one individual who might be the one who would change the outcome of the game.

I was right to think that as in both games as they did the double over us. I’m not sure Tim Howard has been the same since he got off the phone to Barack Obama but he’s still capable of saving anything.

You’d think that the names on paper in the defence would look collectively strong but they’ve shipped in more than anyone in the whole league so that again shouldn’t fall into the ‘fear’ category.

Ahead of that you’ve got loads of people capable of being moulded by Martinez to cause United some difficulties but it’s something that at Old Trafford we should be able to deal with.

What’s your prediction?

We’ve a new UWS out on Sunday so we’re hoping for no rain, therefore it will likely hammer it down. That’s my nap of the day.

As for the match, that win last week was a huge result for United. Had that nostril hair of Nolan’s not strayed offside and it ended 2-2 that would have sucked the life out of us.

The fact that United battled and hung on after the captain’s moment of madness was an important shot in the arm.

Everton won’t enjoy the Russia travel and the Thursday to Sunday thing so a lot rides on who plays there and who doesn’t. United will be fresh, albeit a bit injured.

Everton have a leaky defence and United have for 18 months now let pretty much every shot on target in so that’s something I’m sure Martinez will want to expose.

United have a lot more firepower further up the field than Everton so while I think United will win, I expect that we’ll need to score at least three to do so. If we don’t score three I won’t be expecting as many points.

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