Deja vu as Old Trafford winless run continues

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Everton woe Old TraffordPA PhotosEverton's players look dejected after Van Persie's strike made it 2-0

Old Trafford is a daunting place for any visiting side. With Everton's winless run dating back to 1992, it is obvious why the majority of fans greet this fixture with dread. Since a 3-0 win in August 1992, there has been a mind numbing inevitability about these Old Trafford meetings. Too often, lambs to the proverbial slaughter, containment is the adopted approach. Last season, playing with no degree of respect or fear, Everton drew 4-4 and showed the way forward for this fixture.

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Forgetting those traits shown in the May draw, this was a frustrating afternoon for Everton and a United win looked the only viable outcome. Forced back throughout the early stages, this had the makings of a long day at the office and so it proved. Failing to capitalise on their possession, further defensive errors hampered David Moyes' side. Keeping just four league clean sheets this season, the inability to keep the opposition out has left Everton with too many mountains to climb.

The most exasperating aspect was the lack of cutting edge. Few teams have so much of the ball at Old Trafford but Everton did nothing with it. Given their share of possession (53%) and passing numbers - more overall and in the final third - the output was disappointing. Creating just four chances in open play and six in total, the inability to fashion openings compounded the defensive errors. Over reliant on an overworked Leighton Baines, with the left-back accounting for four of the six chances created, Everton are beginning to look a tired side.

Whatever the various reasons, the failure to strengthen in January could come back to haunt Everton. As the season progresses, the other European contenders can point to greater strength in depth. Should the lack of signings hinder the team, the blame and finger pointing are likely to find their way to certain quarters in the summer.

In this instance, questionable defending was the main reason for the defeat. Thrust into the spotlight, following Sylvain Distin's withdrawal during the warm up, John Heitinga had the chance to redeem his Aston Villa horror show. Unfortunately, the Dutch defender continued to leave fans scratching their heads and Heitinga is a shadow of the man named Everton's player of the year last season. Guilty of ball watching for the opener, Robin van Persie outmuscled Heitinga with alarming ease. Totally bereft of confidence, the bold option of dropping Heitinga in favour of youth is looking increasingly favourable.

For the second goal, a dreadful offside trap provided Van Persie with the time and space to round Tim Howard. The goalkeeper made it easy for van Persie, going to ground easily, and one-on-ones are not Howard's strengths. Phil Neville looked rusty, this just his fourth league game at right-back this season, and the goal was one of several occasions when he failed to master the offside trap. There is nothing wrong with a high line, as the alternative is sitting back, but the execution of it was abysmal.

Winning just one of the last five league games, Everton's European train is beginning to run out of steam. At the end of a horrible weekend, with every result going against them, Everton need to regroup and find some fresh impetus for these closing months. Shorn of the boost offered by new signings, a monumental effort is required from this squad in the upcoming months.

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