Toffees stay in touch with top four as David Moyes endures nightmare return to Goodison
Everton FC struck a fatal blow to Manchester United’s Champions League hopes – and kept their own going – as David Moyes endured a hellish return to Goodison Park.
Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas were on target to give Roberto Martinez’s Everton FC side an easy 2-0 win.
Moyes’ picture takes pride of place alongside the likes of Dixie Dean and Alan Ball on an Everton timeline that stretches around Goodison Park.
But the Everton fans made it clear that they no longer hold their former manager in the same esteem.
Moyes, who was in charge at the Merseyside club for 11 years, was mocked throughout this incredibly one-sided encounter.
One home fan even turned up dressed as the Grim Reaper to poke fun at the Scot from just behind his seat in the away dugout.
The Reaper, and his inflatable scythe, was ejected from the stadium with 15 minutes on the clock, but he must have known by then that his team would emerge with the three points.
Manchester United, quite simply, never looked like taking anything from the match.
John Stones and Sylvain Distin kept Wayne Rooney quiet, and United were out-muscled and out-classed in midfield while Tim Howard was called into action on two occasions.
Everton FC v Manchester United at Goodison Park
Phil Jones gifted Everton the lead when he handballed Romelu Lukaku’s shot and Leighton Baines – who was the subject of what Everton called an “insulting and derisory” £12million bid last summer – scored from 12 yards.
The sloppy Alex Buttner played Mirallas onside for the second just before half-time and he beat David de Gea from a tight angle.
The result and performance from both teams showed just how far United have regressed and how much Everton have come on under Roberto Martinez.
For United, Champions League qualification is now mathematically impossible. For Everton, their dreams of dining at Europe’s top table are very much alive and few would back against them based on this performance.
Martinez’s men are just one point behind fourth-placed Arsenal with three games left. The run-in looks to be an exciting and potentially successful one for both the red and blue sides of Merseyside.
As expected, Moyes emerged from the tunnel to a loud chorus of boos from the home fans.
He stood on the touchline, seemingly unaffected by the negative reaction from the fans who cheered him on for 11 years.
The Grim Reaper first took to his feet and waved his inflatable scythe in Moyes’ direction after five minutes, much to the amusement of those around him.
On the pitch it was Everton who were taunting their opponents. They dominated possession and Manchester United could only chase shadows as Everton flicked the ball across the well-manicured turf with ease.
Rooney, his every touch booed, dropped too deep, as did Juan Mata, leaving Manchester United without a target man up top.
Everton had no such problem. Lukaku raced at the United defence like a freight train, bruising a shell-shocked Jones and Jonny Evans, who looked off the pace after a two-month absence.
Just after the Reaper was ejected, Everton had their first real chance. Seamus Coleman found Steven Naismith in the box but his shot was blocked by Evans’ right elbow. Mark Clattenburg waved away appeals for a penalty.
Moments later the referee had no choice but to point to the spot when Jones inexplicably stuck out his right arm to stop Lukaku’s shot.
Baines, who could have been wearing red today had events of last summer taken a different turn, blasted the ball down the middle inches away from De Gea’s out-stretched leg.
Everton were playing some beautiful football. Coleman, Mirallas and Steven Naismith played the ball in a tight triangle, but Lukaku could not finish off the move.
The seemingly inevitable second came just before the break when the excellent Coleman played in Mirallas, who beat De Gea from close range.
Manchester United appealed for offside against Mirallas, but replays showed Buttner had played the Belgian on.
Howard was finally called into action in first-half injury-time when Evans headed into the American’s hands.
Rooney had a much better chance after the restart, but he dallied, allowing substitute Antolin Alcaraz to come to the rescue.
Moyes brought on Antonio Valencia, Javier Hernandez, and later Danny Welbeck but nothing changed on the pitch, as Everton remained in control.
Tempers then flared when James McCarthy saw yellow for a rash challenge on Mata and Rooney reacted with a late two-footed tackle on the Irishman.
Naismith wasted two good chances to make it 3-0 while Howard denied Rooney a goal at the other end.
There was no way through and Moyes endured taunts of “sacked in the morning” shortly before he disappeared down the tunnel at the final whistle.
Roberto Martinez has strong beliefs and ideals about the way he wants to play football.
The Catalan likes his teams to dominate possession and to dictate the tempo of their games.
But recently, and in some big games, Martinez has changed his tactics.
The Everton boss has been willing to let the opposition have the lion’s share of the ball and then hit them on the counter-attack.
It worked brilliantly against Arsenal and, on Sunday, against Manchester United as the Blues cruised to a 2-0 win.
I wandered into the victorious home dressing room after the final whistle.
Most of the players had long since gone but assistant manager Graeme Jones still was there and the two of us got chatting.
Graeme explained to me that Roberto had gone into the game with a clear plan to let United have the ball and then hit them on the break.
Some wrongly believe that Martinez will not budge when it comes to the way Everton play but Sunday showed once again that he is very tactically aware and astute.
And when you have the pace of Seamus Coleman and Kevin Mirallas then Everton were always going to be a real threat on the counter.