HERE was no grim reaper in evidence like United’s last visit to Goodison – this was just grim.
ThThThThThThThe skeletal fifififigure of death that haunted David Moyes in the crowd 12 months ago in the last throes of his Reds life wasn’t brought out of the closet to taunt Louis van Gaal.
Had this kind of performance been going on for the last couple of months instead of an encouraging renaissance then the costume and scythe could well have been making a comeback.
ThThis was a backward step display from United which brings the prospect of a Champions League qualififififififififififififier early next season ever closer.
From cementing a comfortable place in the top three on the back of a six- match winning run, United’s position has been weakened after the wheels came offff at Chelsea.
Old Trafffffford boss Van Gaal curiously argued that his side’s Stamford Bridge display was one of the best of the season.
Was there a Fergiestyle piece of kidology in that pubic appraisal?
If it was done to quickly repair the confifidence after the 1-0 defeat in west London then it failed miserably.
If he just read it difffferently to most then he couldn’t fail to misread this one.
It was a return to the old days of Moyes’ visit last Easter in his fifinal game and also a throwback to early season when United’s possession football got nowhere and defending was fragile in the extreme.
You thought Van Gaal had consigned this kind of struggle to history.
But as well as some laboured build up returning, so were the calls from the visiting section at Goodison for United to ‘attack, attack, attack.’
But it was the lack of a decent creative pass and a solid rearguard backbone that brought so many haunting memories of Van Gaal’s initial six months. It was the kind of mix of imagination and calm that Michael Carrick brings to Van Gaal’s structure. ThThThThThThThThThey missed it at Chelsea and again at Goodison.
But an expensively assembled squad shouldn’t be so derailed and disjointed without one 33- year- old fifigure – no matter how inflfluential. United hit a brick wall every time they got to the fifififififififinal third while Everton easily bludgeoned their way through a paper mache structure.
On the one occasion the Reds had opened up Everton, Marouane Fellaini ballooned a great chance over to cancel out James McCarthy’s bustling, stumbling opener that Paddy McNair and Daley Blind allowed with their flflimsy resistance.
United did suggest they’d got the hang of clearing Everton’s corners but a third successive Leighton Baines set piece, previously both cleared by Fellaini, was seized on by a powerful run by John Stones.
United’s defence didn’t cover themselves in glory either for the third as they stopped, arms raised en masse, for an offffside that Kevin Mirallas neatly avoided.