LONDON: Robin Van Persie’s debut for Manchester United was upstaged as last season’s Premier League runners-up lost 1-0 at Everton, their first opening-day defeat for eight years.
Man of the match Marouane Fellaini scored the decisive goal against a United who side who introduced their new, £24m acquisition only as a substitute with 20 minutes to go. Former United midfielder Darron Gibson swung over a corner just before the hour and Fellaini outmuscled Michael Carrick to head home.
United had chances of their own, with Danny Welbeck seeing one shot blocked by Phil Jagielka and another hooked wide under pressure from the centre-back. But former Evertonian Wayne Rooney was quiet by his standards, hitting two shots too close to Tim Howard and seeing a late first-half header punched clear.
Everton had won only twice at home against United in 17 years and Fellaini said: “It was a good goal, it was a good cross, a good corner. It was good for me and for Everton. Everton had a lot of chances in the first half and we had to keep going and hoped the team scored. I think everybody was motivated. Manchester United is a great club. Everybody is motivated, and I think today everybody played well.”
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson offered no excuses even though he had to use Antonio Valencia at rightback and Michael Carrick as a stand-in central defender.
He said: “With Robin in your team you know you want to use his ability against centre-backs in situations he is very good at – but we didn’t use him enough. He is a handful: he is a big, tall, gangly lad and they just lumped the ball forward to him, that’s all they did
“They worked from that base all the time and they got a goal from him, so it’s justified. Centre-back is a problem but we coped quite well, I don’t think you can criticise their performance in that respect. It was just difficult to handle him when they were knocking these balls up to him.”
Everton manager David Moyes insisted despite the victory, their first in their opening fixture for five seasons, there was still plenty to do to rid themselves of the tag of perennially poor starters.
He said: “We haven’t started seasons well and even tonight’s result doesn’t tell you you have started the season well. Just as if we had lost tonight we wouldn’t say we had started the season badly. You probably judge it after 10 games how you’ve started the season. I’ve tried absolutely everything to try to get off to a good start so we tried something different this year.
“I am really pleased because they performed ever so well and got a great result.”
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