Everton show no hangover from cup and United paid the price
21:30 GMT, 22 April 2012
In the build-up to Everton’s FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool, David Moyes privately expressed concerns about what defeat might do to his players.
As a dejected Everton side left Wembley nine days ago, it was easy to see what he meant. Even with the incentive of finishing above their neighbours, even considering the indomitable spirit among Moyes and his players, you had to wonder how they would lift themselves for the last five games.
On Sunday came the answer. Manchester United didn’t expect it. Nor did Manchester City. But Moyes had already sensed that his initial fears were unfounded.
Delight: Everton suffered no cup hangover
‘I think after anybody loses a semi-final to their local rivals it’s tougher to take, so there was a little bit of that,’ he said.
‘But I think this was a wee bit to say, “Hey, we’re not that bad a team”. From our point of view we reminded people that we’re still here. I’m disappointed that people would question the character of Everton.
‘The message was to go toe-to-toe with United. We didn’t back off. We were right at it from the first minute right to the last.’
United made the mistake of thinking it was over before then against an Everton side who were outstanding. The pick of them was Marouane Fellaini.
‘Nearly unplayable at times,’ was Moyes’s appraisal. It was Fellaini’s crisp volley that brought Everton back into the game at 3-2.
Tough customer: David Moyes said Marouane Fellaini was almost unplayable for United
Jelavic also impressed, as he has done since a 4.5million move from Rangers in January. In nine games, the Croatia striker has become Everton’s top scorer in the Premier League.
Sunday's double took his total to six, not including his strike against Liverpool at Wembley. It could have been the goal that took Everton to the FA Cup Final had Sylvain Distin’s dreadful mistake not let their rivals back in.
Switched to left-back, Distin responded with a fine performance to help nullify Antonio Valencia.
Waiting: Moyes still has not won at Old Trafford
The United old boys were fired up for their return, as well. Jonny Evans needed treatment after a challenge from Darron Gibson, Neville was booked for a rash challenge on Danny Welbeck, and Tim Howard’s late save from Rio Ferdinand denied United a winner.
Moyes is still waiting for his first victory at Old Trafford but this must have given him almost as much pleasure.
‘You all tell me what a terrible record I have before I play every game here and rightly so because it is, but we’ve always been close,’ he said.
‘It makes United’s next game and the title race that little bit more tasty.’
It certainly does.