Barclays Premier League
Manchester United 4-4 Everton



Phil Neville puts his hands on his head in the background as Wayne Rooney (above) scores against his old club just before half-time 



By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from Old Trafford 

Manchester United lost vital ground in the race for their 20th Premier League title as Everton produced a gritty performance to come from behind to earn a point in a thrilling match.

A festival of "six of the best" goals in the second half enlightened an extraordinary offensive match filled with drama. Nikica Jelavic headed Everton in the lead only for former Evertonian Wayne Rooney to level with a header of his own shortly before half-time. Then came the rack of goals with United going infront through a sumptuous curler from the impressive Danny Welbeck while Nani chipped in a third for the home side. 

Everton responded with Marouane Fellaini hooking in a volley although Rooney scored his second to restore the two-goal cushion and made it 4-2. The Toffees weren't done there and against the odds miraculously pulled it back level in the space of four minutes with Jelavic scoring another and Steven Pienaar sliding in the leveller to complete an astonishing turnaround. The draw meant United are only three points clear of City who beat Wolves 2-0 later in the day and cannot clinch the Premier League title when they travel across Manchester for the title-defining derby a week on Monday.

United made one change to the team which crushed Aston Villa 4-0 last Sunday with Ashley Young, who has been criticised in the media this week for diving to win a penalty in the victory against his old club last week, being left on the bench hsving been spoken to by manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Nani came in to start his first league match since January. Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans started together in defence for the ninth consecutive Premier League match.

Everton made four changes from the side which came up short in the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool last weekend with Leighton Baines a key absentee- sidelined through a hamstring injury meaning Sylvain Distin moved from the centre of defence to left-back with Johnny Heitanga coming into defence. Tim Cahill and Magaye Gueye dropped to the bench with former United midfielder Darron Gibson coming in and Steven Pienaar returning after being cup-tied for the defeat eight days ago at Wembley. Ross Barkley returned to the first team picture on the substitutes bench after recovering from a four month lay-off playing in the reserves of late.

The game was set from the first minute that it was to be packed with chances and goalmouth action from the moment that Leon Osman headed wide. The midfielder's initial shot came off the back of Rio Ferdinand and up into the air- the Everton man won the second ball and was inches away from finding the net- something which the Merseyside club had failed to do in their three previous visits to Old Trafford.



Everton have only won once at Old Trafford since the Premier League began- and that was the very first season in 1992/93 winning 3-0.


The game was set from the first minute that it was to be packed with chances and goalmouth action from the moment that Leon Osman headed wide. The midfielder's initial shot came off the back of Rio Ferdinand and up into the air- the Everton man won the second ball and was inches away from finding the net- something which the Merseyside club had failed to do in their three previous visits to Old Trafford.

United- who play Manchester City, Swansea and Sunderland in their final three fixtures- knew how tricky this fixture is and has been over the years for the club. It was a bright Everton start with Nikica Jelavic forcing De Gea into action with a low shot from the edge of the box after being well picked out by Fellaini. Moments later, Pienaar clipped a ball to Osman out in space on the right hand side who had time to take a shot on which he dragged a couple of yards wide of the far post.

Scholes, who has scored three goals and not lost since his retirement U-turn, lined one up from the edge of the box on 16 minutes which was a foot or two wide of the post with former Red Devil Tim Howard in goal watching it all the way and not troubled. Fellaini played high up the pitch giving supplementary support to Jelavic with Osman picking up the ball in dangerous areas with Jelavic looking typically threatening and exploiting space.  

It was a lethargic start for United lacking in ideas and movement but plenty to encourage Toffees boss David Moyes whose side were outnumbering United a lot in midfield with their 4-5-1 formation giving them an extra man in the middle of the park. And it was little surprise when the boys in blue got their noses infront when the ball was worked out to Tony Hibbert whose deep cross to the back post found Jelavic who looped a header in where the keeper couldn't save it to give the scoreline a surprise look but nothing less than the men from Merseyside had deserved on 33 minutes. A minute later, a quite remarkable escape when Scholes chanced his arms again outside the box. This time the ball ricocheted off Welbeck and Jagielka before Howard stopped it from crossing the line having already committed himself to the other side.

United, who got over the line at Goodison Park earlier in the season beating Everton 1-0 in October, were struggling to settle into their rhythm and click into gear but weren't allowed to do so by a defensively organised Everton. A potential weakness point for the visitors was the unusual injury to Baines at left-back- who has been an ever-present since joining from Wigan in 2007- and with no natural understudy, it meant Distin playing out of position giving the chance for Valencia to run at him frequently. The goal was a wake-up call for the Red Devils who were attempting to increase the tempo. Rafael felt he was fouled on the vicinity of the penalty line by Osman who cut across him but referee Mike Jones didn't concur.  



It was the first time that Manchester United had ever conceded four goals in a home league match against Everton- it is their first points dropped at Old Trafford since a 3-2 defeat to Blackburn on New Years Eve.


They got themselves level with four minutes of the first period remaining with Wayne Rooney, who hasn't scored in six matches against Everton, heading in a fine Nani cross which Phil Neville- who won six Premier League winners medals during his career at Manchester United- allowed to sail over his head. It was goal number 33 of the season for the most potent finisher in the land who celebrated respectfully in mind of his old club where it all began for him. Despite getting the goal, United manager Ferguson rushed from the dugout to the technical area to vent his angers about something to fourth official Kevin Friend. It meant United had scored for a 48th consecutive Premiership match at home since a 1-0 reverse against Villa in December 2009.

A torrential downpour of rain greeted the players for the second half but it didn't dampen the mood with United coming out the stronger of the two teams as you would expect and they came from behind to lead in the 57th minute. Everton players were unhappy that play wasn't allowed to stop with Pienaar down injured. Heitanga was sold by an intricate dummy from Welbeck inside the penalty arc with the slightest of touches before the young striker curled in an unerring right-footer with precision into the corner of the net.

That lead was extended minutes later with a beautiful finish to the end of a beautiful build-up. Some lovely one-touch football around the box with triangle passes between Nani, Welbeck and Carrick with Welbeck providing a perfectly weighted ball to Nani who craftily dinked over Howard from close in to make it 3-1 and seemingly game over. United looked to have the bit between their teeth however Everton were showing resolve.

Everton looked like getting back into the game and they were back in with a shout when Hibbert again turned provider this time for the eye-catching Marouane Fellaini who connected cleanly with a crisp volley which David De Gea- who hadn't conceded a home league goal for two months before today- got a hand to but couldn't keep out after 67 minutes. A minute later, a decent strike from Pienaar brought a cushioned save out of the Spanish U21 international. It added to the great collection of goals in what had been an eventful spell at the beginning of the second half.

The Toffees came from 3-1 behind to snatch a 3-3 draw with United last season in the fixture at Goodison Park but it looked like it wasn't to be their day and be the same old story for them at Old Trafford when Welbeck and Rooney interchanged magnificently before the latter stroked the ball in to score a seventh goal in the last six home matches for United to increase their lead. It was a fine Rooney finish after terrific link-up play between the two strikers as the confirmation of a 20th title loomed large.

Control is what United appeared to have on the game now although the belief remained in Everton. In the space of sixty seconds, Evra hit the post after a fizzed Rafael cross along the face of goal from another quality delivery from wide. The Merseyside men kept clawing away and pulled another one back and another from Croatian international Nikica Jelavic. The former Rangers striker- who was on target at Wembley last Saturday- shooting low into the corner to net to make the last minutes tense. Money well spent for Everton having scored his seventh for the club since moving in January.

The match and indeed the title took an unexpected and extraordinary twist with five minutes to go. Neville played the ball into the area where Fellaini brought the ball under control and turned away from Ferdinand before picking out an unmarked Pienaar running in and the on-loan Spurs man tidily finished underneath the goalkeeper to stun the crowd and leave United on the brink of dropping two significant points and make it 4-4 improbably. Scholes was taken off immediately afterwards with Phil Jones brought on.

Surely there were no more goals to come. The nail biting became more extravagant from both sets of supporters while the chewing of the gum from Alex Ferguson became vigorous. Rio Ferdinand had the best chance to get a ninth goal of the game and swing the match the way of the champions again on his 450th career league start late on but his rising shot was tipped over sensationally by USA's number one Tim Howard in a breathtaking climax to preserve a well-deserved point for his team. While his old team threw away the chance to move eight points clear of their rivals with City in action at Molineux later in the afternoon ahead of the massive Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium on April 30th.


Adam Higgins
The Football Site- Chief Football Editor

"It was an incredible match full of thrills and spills from the early minutes with some fantastic goals from both teams. The second half was absorbing. Manchester United had experienced players in their team who have been there, seen it and done it so it was very surprising to see them so ineffective and out of depth. Having led 3-1 and 4-2, they should have closed the game out and took the sting out of the game. But Everton deserve tremendous credit for playing their part in an open and expansive match in which they played with freedom. David Moyes set his team out to go and attack United and that is just what they did. There will be turmoil in the dressing room after that and he (Ferguson) will want a response in the upcoming derby match."



Sunday 22nd April 2012

Barclays Premier League

Old Trafford


Manchester United 4-4 Everton                       KO 12:30pm            (HT 1-1)

Rooney 41, 69            Jelavic 33, 83
Welbeck 57                Fellaini 67
Nani 61                     Pienaar 85


Manchester United:  1 De Gea- 6.5/10, 21 Rafael- 6/10, 6 Evans- 6/10, 5 Ferdinand- 6/10, 3 Evra (C)- 6/10, 25 Valencia- 6/10 (Hernandez 89- 1/10), 16 Carrick- 7/10, 22 Scholes- 6.5/10 (Jones 86- 1/10), 17 Nani- 7/10, 10 Rooney- 8/10, 19 Welbeck- 8.5/10.

Subs not used:  40 Amos, 12 Smalling, 11 Giggs, 13 Park Ji-Sung, 18 Young

Booked:      Evra (46)


Everton:  24 Howard- 8/10, 2 Hibbert- 8/10, 5 Heitanga- 6.5/10, 6 Jagielka- 7/10, 15 Distin- 6.5/10 (Cahill 83- 3/10), 21 Osman- 7.5/10 (McFadden 63- 4/10), 18 Neville (C)- 7.5/10, 25 Fellaini- 9/10, 4 Gibson- 8/10, 22 Pienaar- 8.5/10, 7 Jelavic- 8.5/10.

Subs not used:  1 Mucha, 20 Barkley, 19 Gueye, 11 Stracqualursi, 28 Anichebe 

Booked:      Distin (45+2), Neville (59)


My Man of the Match:     Marouane Fellaini (Everton)- Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:     Rafael Da Silva (Manchester United)- Rating 6/10



Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire)- 7/10
Attendance: 75,522



Match Facts

Possession: Manchester United- 58%             Everton- 42%

Shots: Manchester United- 20                 Everton- 17

Shots on target: Manchester United- 11                Everton- 10

Shots off target: Manchester United- 9                 Everton- 7

Corners: Manchester United- 5                    Everton- 2

Fouls: Manchester United- 8                  Everton- 11

Offside: Manchester United- 2                  Everton- 1

Assists: Manchester United- 4 (Nani 2, Welbeck 2)              Everton- 3 (Hibbert (2), Fellaini)



Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

"We have thrown the game away no question about it. We were in a good position and lost it. Similarly to last season when we played them at Goodison Park, we couldn't see the match out in the important final minutes. It was quite unimaginable- it was a poor performance by us. We didn't defend properly as we expect of the players. The goals we conceded were very soft. Although, some of the football we played was magnificent at times and some of the goals were fantastic with some excellent build-up play. It was unusual to see them score four goals which were unchallenged and poor from our point of view especially from a team going for a championship. The first goal Jelavic has a free header really and that goal to break the deadlock is crucial in matches with this importance. They hung in there at times but we got a bit unlucky in that we hit the post at one end with a chance to make it 5-2 and at the other end they make it 4-3. It took us a while to get going today- half an hour or so. The rain didn't help us in keeping possession but we will be back and I have full confidence in the team getting a good result next week at the Etihad Stadium."

Click here for the full post-match interview with United boss Sir Alex Ferguson



Everton manager David Moyes

"It was a fantastic comeback from us- we played really well and went for it today. It was disappointing to see us losing like we were because I thought we deserved to be drawing at the worst. It was a terrific effort from the players to come back in the game- in the first half we were passing the ball well and mixed our play up with a real style about us. We never stopped attacking and we were toe-to-toe with them. In the second half, they got more into it and looked like they could have run away with it once or twice. At 4-2, Evra hit the post which could have been a different outcome. We tried to win the game and create chances- it was a truly great performance from the lads. Nikica (Jelavic) is a really good player and he gave a couple of really good centre-backs a torrid time today not only that he contributed two goals. Even at 4-2 I thought we may score one more and in the end we got our just rewards by getting two more to equalise. Towards the end we were hanging on a bit and there was a slight chance that they may score but it is a good point for us."

Click here for the full post-match interview with Toffees boss David Moyes


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