Coming home at 6.30 am on Thursday from Milan to be faced with a TV scheduled match game at 12.45 on Saturday against an in-form team like Everton gave this match a surreal edge before we started. Undoubtedly handing the opposition a huge advantage and at the same time causing us to make changes to the line up. Out went Huddlestone and Jenas (who had been excellent in midweek), in came Palacios, Kaboul and the previously suspended Van Der Vartt. Gomes was back in goal, but was powerless to stop Everton taking an early lead when ex-Wiganer Baines curled a free kick high into the top right hand corner of his net. The kick, incorrectly awarded when the still-overwiegh Jakubu conned the ref was precise, but should never have been given. Everton then gifted us an equaliser in the next minute when Hutton’s centre was misjudged by Tim Howard (what a big mistake Man U made in giving him away some years ago) and rebounded off Crouch’s midriff straight to the Dutch master who thumped the ball home from all of 2 inches out! Everton were missing Osman and Arteta which reduced their creative edge in midfield, but I have to say the their defence (apart from the equaliser) stood firm for the remainder of the game despite Spurs best efforts and some very lack lustre finishing from Peter Crouch who unbelievably has not registered a goal in any of our 9 league games so far….I should also mention at this point that the games’ key incident took place very early on when, having been skinned by Bale, the veteran Everton full-back Phil Neville took him out at speed, the ref producing a yellow card, and then changing his mind. Had Neville gone into the book at that stage, the game would have played out very differently as he spent the next 78 minutes pulling, elbowing and kicking anything that moved….very poor reffing I must say, but possibly an evening-up of things after the Huddlestone winner at Fulham was allowed under appeal last week?
The highlight of the game for me was the introduction of our new Brazilian, Sandro, at half time (at the expense of Palacios who really needs to get his act together or he’ll be gone in January – booked after 8 minutes for a stupid tackle, and after that it was almost as if we were down to 10 men he was so ineffectual- his mother intimidates more than he does at the moment!).
Sandro however, looks the real deal and his expansive, physical presence will drive our midfield for years to come on this showing – it will be very interesting to see how he copes next weekend against Mr Scholes and co.
So, all in all, a decent point against a side who will be there or threabouts at the end of the season…15 points taken from 9 games is not bad when you consider the ridiculous amount of injuries we have had to contend with so far , but let there be no doubt that if we are to maintain a push for top 4 honours again this season, we need two strikers and a centre half bringing in after December 31st – hopefully the management already have the targets identified and negotiations are in progress. Its also time to move both King and Woodgate off the books to balance the wage bill that the new players will incur. Keane and Bentley must also move on in January.
So it’s off to Old Trafford next Saturday (late kick off gives us a breather), where the referee will be crucial if we are to get the long-awaited 3 points…they enjoyed huge slices of luck at Stoke yesterday and Ferdinand picked up a knock, so here’s hoping!