By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer
It’s easily the biggest game of Monday night football of the season so far. In fact, it’s the only game of Monday night football of the season so far. After watching Chelsea and Manchester City get their campaigns off to winning starts of varying degrees of comfort, Manchester United finally begin their challenge with a tricky trip to Everton.
The Toffees effectively cost United the title by refusing to roll over and die at Old Trafford towards the end of last season. That’s being cited as a reason for United wanting to get revenge, but the fact they’re all professionals who wouldn’t survive at the club if they didn’t want to win is also quite a big factor. It’ll be bringing you all the latest updates along with news on Robin van Persie and how many times Gary Neville scoregasms throughout the evening.
FULL TIME: Everton 1 – Manchester United 0
9.52pm: FULL TIME! The Toffees withstand some pressure to claim the win. Fellaini will almost certainly be named as the man of the match, with substantial contributions from the Phils – Jagielka and Neville. United looked rusty and didn’t carve out too many clear cut chances. Van Persie was largely anonymous during his cameo, but the didn’t get too long so we won’t judge him too harshly. The defence looked shaky and the midfield looked sloppy.
9.49pm: SUBSTITUTION! Fellaini goes off after his excellent performance. Johnny Heitenga comes on to bolster the defence.
9.48pm: Fergie time is up and running. There will be four minutes of added time.
9.47pm: SUBSTITUTION! Steven Naismith comes on to make his Everton debut. Jelavic gets the hook.
9.43pm Part 2: SUBSTITUTION! Tom Cleverley goes off and Fergie has decided Anderson will be an improvement for some reason.
9.43pm: Five minutes and added time left for United to get something out of this game. They’ve looked rustier than Robocop after spending too long in the sauna, but you can never count them out. It’s 7/2 that they salvage a draw.
9.40pm: The Everton defence has been solid all right. Another United attack is repelled thanks to a solid tackle from Goodison Park legend, Tony Hibbert.
9.38pm: SUBSTITUTION! Everton make their first change. Leon Osman is called ashore and Seamus Coleman takes his place.
9.36pm: Half chance for Kagawa. Maybe even a quarter chance. Whatever it was, Tim Howard knocked it on to Kagawa’s leg and it went wide.
9.35pm: SUBSTITUTION! Ashley Young comes on in place of Nani, whose main contribution to the United cause was quite a lot of moaning and looking at the referee like he’s been the victim of some horrendous injustice.
9.33pm: United are pressing for an equaliser, but not creating much. Van Persie is working hard off the ball, but looks slightly bewildered when his new team-mates have a shot at goal without first trying to walk the ball into the net. It’ll take time to get used to this crazy new system.
9.28pm: The Goodison Park stadium announcer reminds everyone it’s an offence to come on to the pitch at any point in the match. He resists the temptation to add ‘except you Rafael da Silva. You’re welcome on whenever you want’.
9.26pm: SUBSTITUTION! Robin van Persie finally comes on for his first appearance in the red table-cloth of United. Danny Welbeck makes way for the Dutchman.
9.25pm: GOAL LINE CLEARANCE! United have stepped it up and Tom Cleverly has a shot cleared off the line by Phil Jagielka.
9.21pm: Fellaini with another header at goal. De Gea holds on to it. It’s hard to overstate how impressive the Belgian has been tonight. He makes it look so effortless and cool. As this photo from tonight’s match at Goodison Park shows:
9.15pm: GOAL! 1-0 Everton! It’s Fellaini with a header from a corner. He has been the dominant force in the match so far and it’s a deserved goal. Robin van Persie is sent to warm-up, but unless he’s suddenly been converted to a commanding centre-back, United have bigger problems.
9.14pm: It’s not been the prettiest in the last few minutes, but it’s still an exciting contest. Rooney fires a shot into the stands.
9.06pm: WOODWORK! Leon Osman smashes the ball off the United crossbar from a Fellaini knock-down. United break and it takes a last ditch tackle from Phil Jagielka to deny Danny Welbeck who was closing in on goal.
9.03pm: Robin remains resting as a reserve. Some nice alliteration and Manchester United start the second half. Both managers have stuck with their starting XIs at half time.
8.54pm: In honour of having a bet on the Over 1.5 goals market (this may not be true) Pamela Ryan (@PamelaRyanX) has been flaunting her Paddy Power Lucky Pants. Either way, she’s flaunting her Paddy Power Lucky Pants and that’s what matters.
8.47pm: HALF TIME! It’s Everton on top, but the sheets remain clean. United are 6/4 to win it.
8.45pm: Great free kick from Leighton Baines about 25 yards out. De Gea gets a strong hand to it, makes it look more dangerous than it probably was, but keeps it out – a crucial detail he was forgetting about 12 months ago.
8.42pm: Robin van Persie looks on form the bench. He can’t fail to be impressed by the attacking play he’s seen so far tonight. Sadly for United, it’s mostly from Marouane Fellaini.
8.40pm: Another save from David de Gea. This time from a Leon Osman turn and shot. It’s pretty much straight at the goalkeeper, but everyone’s still kind of surprise that de Gea kept it out.
8.37pm: United have been sub-standard and second best so far. Which generally means they’re about to score. Wayne Rooney fires a shot at Howard and not long after, Danny Welbeck pokes a ball just wide when played in about 16 yards out.
8.34pm: Everton are on top and the United defence are struggling to contain the blur of hair and legs that is Fellaini. They work a couple of good positions, but United scramble the ball away and the ref turns away a half-arsed penalty appeal.
8.32pm: Steven Pienaar forces David de Gea into a good save low down to his left.
8.31pm: Just over half an hour gone, United are 6/5, Everton are 11/4 and the draw has been trimmed to 7/4. Latest betting here.
8.28pm: Free kick just outside the Everton penalty area for United. Rooney and Nani stand over it. Rooney hits a decent effort, but Howard tips it around the post.
8.24pm: More nice football from Everton and Jelavic gets a half chance and wins a corner. De Gea makes a good save from a looping header. The commentators seem confused at the prospect of having to praise him rather than criticise him.
8.21pm: He got booked early on, but Paul Scholes is starting to exert an influence on this game. He’s playing with a big smile on his face. A couple of months short of his 38th birthday, it’s good to see him enjoying his football so much.
8.16pm: David de Gea has his head in his hands. Ironically, that’s a gesture he often inspires in United fans. He sort of punches a Baines free-kick away, but took a knock in the head from Fellaini for his efforts.
8.14pm: Fellaini goes on what counts as a skillful run for him. He gets to the byline and smacks a shot off the post. A warning for United’s patched up defence.
8.12pm: YELLOW CARD! Paul Scholes with a trademark Paul Scholes crap tackle on Darron Gibson. He was very late. As late as someone who started a Bebo page today. Lucky not to be sent off.
8.08pm: Now United get more into the game with a nice spell of moving the ball. The ball falls perfectly for a trademark Paul Scholes volley from the edge of the penalty area. He scuffs it and it dribbles to Tim Howard. In fairness to him, shots like that have been known to beat Everton’s goalscoring goalkeeper.
8.06pm: Everton have started brightly and play some nice crisp passing around midfield. That’s until they give the ball to Phil Neville who picks out David de Gea perfectly.
8.02pm: YELLOW CARD! We’re only a minute into the new season and already Nani has become incredibly annoying. He argues the toss for not getting a corner that wasn’t a corner and then gets a yellow card for nearly tackling an Everton player.
8pm: Everton get the game underway. The Toffees are in their customary blue, with United in their newly designed table-cloths
7.55pm: Everton are currently parading Kevin Mirallas in front of the Goodison Park crowd. Well, they say it’s Kevin Mirallas, but it looks an employee of JD Sports who took a wrong turn on his way home. I wouldn’t know the difference.
7.50pm: Ten minutes to go until kick off. You don’t really need to know that, but I’ve no other way of subtly weaving the match odds into the text commentary, so it’ll have to do. Everton are 3/1 if you fancy them to go one better than last season’s Old Trafford upset.
7.47pm: Gary Neville inadvertently gets very philosophical by praising Shinji Kagawa’s ‘sense of mind’. He follows up by mumbling something about ‘cogito ergo sum.’
7.42pm: Fergie is now having an unwanted pre-match microphone shoved in his face. He says a lack of playing time is the reason Robin van Persie is starting on the subs’ bench. He doesn’t reveal however just how he gets his very white shirt so incredibly white.
7.38pm: Sorry, I was paying attention to David Moyes there. To the best of my recollections he said
Always believe in your soul. You’ve got the power to know. You’re indestructible. Always believe in, because you are Gold
Actually the full interview is here:
7.37pm: David Moyes is being interviewed by Sky Sports now. I’m trying hard to listen to what he’s saying, but they’re playing Spandau Ballet in the background at Goodison Park and to be honest, that’s getting the bulk of my attention.
7.29pm: Contrary to the evidence of this blog so far, the teams are allowed substitutes for tonight’s game and the players beginning the match on bench-warming duties are:
Mucha, Heitinga, Naismith, Gueye, Barkley, Coleman, Anichebe
Lindegaard, Da Silva, Anderson, Berbatov, Young, van Persie, Wootton
Wow! Dimitar Berbatov is still a United player! You’d almost think he threw his toys out of the pram only to later realise no-one was willing to pay him as much as United do.
7.23pm: I did some research the other day that said United are the best starters in the history of the Premier League and Tottenham and Liverpool are less than reliable when it comes to winning first time out. I was right about the first two and United are 10/11 to make it a hat-trick of stats based predictions with a win tonight.
7.21pm: Robin van Persie strolls out of the tunnel with the other United players for the warm-up. He immediately starts to pay back his £24 million fee with some impressive star jumps.
7.09pm: The teams are in. David Moyes names a familiar looking side, even allowing for the fact Steven Pienaar is technically a new signing.
Tim Howard, Tony Hibbert, Leighton Baines, Sylvain Distin, Phil Jagielka, Phil Neville, Leon Osman, Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar, Darron Gibson, Nikita Jelavic
United’s new signings are the main talking point, but the patch up back four might well be the bigger story. Carrick starts alongside the returning Vidic in the centre of defence, whilst it’s only slightly less surprising to Valencia fill in at right back.
David De Gea, Antonio Valencia, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick, Nemamja Vidic, Paul Scholes, Shinji Kagawa, Tom Cleverley, Nani, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck
7.01pm: It’s all eyes on Robin van Persie tonight after his surprise move from Arsenal last week and the big news is that Fergie has resisted the temptation to use his shiny new toy from the start and will use him in the Michael Owen role – on the bench.