Martinez rewarded for taking it to United

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

AndrewYates/AFP/Getty ImagesRoberto Martinez guided Everton to their first win at Old Trafford since 1992.

Such was the unbridled optimism beforehand, with Roberto Martinez signalling his attacking intentions and boasting a squad fresh from dismantling Stoke, it felt like a case of waiting for the bubble to burst.

Fortunately, for those of a royal blue persuasion, the expected implosion never arrived. Evertonians have craved this kind of performance at Old Trafford for years. The team arrived full of confidence, and left with a well-earned three points.

The knives remained in the kitchen drawer for this gunfight; the Blues finally fought fire with fire after years of doomed defensive surrender, and it paid dividends as the 21-year famine on this ground ended in style.

- Report: Manchester United 0-1 Everton
- Brewin: Big United blow under Moyes
- Report: Martinez delighted with victory

Make no mistake about it; this is Martinez's Everton. The approach brimmed with the passing principles instilled since his arrival -- the substitutions added to the attacking effort, while the defence once again dispelled the doubts shrouding his Wigan tenure.

This group of players always had the ability to win away at the top sides, but the belief was never there. Martinez has injected the team with that missing ingredient: He has replaced fear and caution with a sizeable dose of self-belief.

Moreover, the statistics validate the methods employed in the pursuit of victory. Everton ended the match with the most frequent passer, Gareth Barry (69), the most creative player, James McCarthy (three), and more chances in open play -- three categories United would expect to top, especially at home.

The early signs of change were apparent during the October visit to the other Manchester club, with Everton running City close before fading late on, yet this represented a more concerted effort. Those in blue improved as the match wore and finished stronger.

The home side edged the first half, as Everton squandered promising counters, and hearts were in mouths when a deflected effort hit the foot of Tim Howard's post, but the second half saw the visitors forcing the issue.

Whatever Martinez said at halftime worked wonders. The Toffees began after the interval with the slightest hint of a swagger. The second half possession closed on 70% in Everton's favour at one point. The shackles were well and truly off.

By the time Bryan Oviedo steered the ball into the far corner with five minutes remaining, there was more than a whiff of just reward about it. Aside from a spell in each half, which resulted in United hitting the woodwork, the champions were kept at arm's length by a well-drilled rearguard.

Marshalled by the excellent Phil Jagielka, the defensive unit registered their eighth clean sheet of the season -- the best tally in the league. There are few better defenders in the division on this form and the centre-back combined brilliantly with the evergreen Sylvain Distin to restrict the in-form Wayne Rooney, who cut an increasingly frustrated, tired figure against his former team.

The full-backs flanking them also shone, especially the match-winner Oviedo. Impressive in attack against Stoke, this was always going to be a sterner test of his overall game. It was a test passed with flying colours.

David Moyes often targets perceived opposing weaknesses, which ensured United frequently ventured down the side housing the relatively inexperienced left back. The Costa Rican rose to the challenge, however, putting his pace to good use and demonstrating his tackling ability on more than one occasion.

When it comes to dishing out praise, the list is endless; each player contributed. Whether it was Barry dictating the play, McCarthy displaying his ceaseless work rate, Steven Pienaar and Ross Barkley trying to create, or Romelu Lukaku battering the United defence, the contenders for man of the match were plentiful.

Even Kevin Mirallas, a player known more for his creativity than his industry, showed another side to his game. Here, refreshed after his post-derby rest, the winger closed down like a man possessed during the first half. His free kick onto the post served as a reminder of his final third capabilities.

With Martinez at the helm, this type of performance always seemed possible. That it materialised this early in the process is testament to the work of the manager and his players thus far.

Having broken this particular away hoodoo, the dangling carrot is the chance to do likewise against league leaders Arsenal on Sunday, where Everton last won in 1996. On this form, that is a genuine possibility.

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