The Blues handed Rooney a gift goal when Joseph Yobo tried to pass a ball backward towards his won goal.
The Everton defenders did not expect such a dangerous pass. Indeed no Everton defender showed for the ball so they were all caught out of position and there was nothing they could do. Even Everton keeper Nigel Martyn was in no man’s land. The ball traveled right across the goalmouth like a ship lost at see. Rooney was on to it in a flash. He was almost smiling as he put the ball away into the corner. Players with such technical polish do not miss these easy chances, especially giveaways.
Off the young striker sped on his celebration run and sliding towards the crowd, his smile said it all. The ex-Everton player had crunched the Toffees at Goodison Park. It was a killer blow within 30 seconds after the start of the second half. What a sick feeling it must have been for Everton after such a good first half performance.
The Blues looked the more likely to score as they started out in a very positive manner going forward. They were competing for every ball. Bad luck arrived when James Beattie had to come off injured in the 20th minute. But his replacement Marcus Bent did very well showing good strength on the ball while maintaining possession up top.
Everton were looking good when a glorious chance landed for Tim Cahill only for new United keeper Edwin Van der Sar to push the ball over the crossbar. The Toffees were more than holding their own against the Red Devils in the opening exchanges.
Then it happened in the 43rd minute. Irish international John O’Shea made a great run down the left and hit a low cross picking out the Flying Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy, who’d timed his run to perfection and clipped a wicked finish into the roof of the net, giving Martyn no chance. Red shirts surrounded O’Shea knowing full well that he had unlocked a stubborn Everton team. The Red Devils had scored against the run of play.
But the run of play means little when a defender gets on the wrong side of the Ruud boy. He’s going to punish you. You cannot keep your eye off of him for one second — no matter how well you’ve been marking him. Especially near the end of the first half and when you think your team is all over United. Van the man will pounce. He is top drawer when it comes to making runs into the box; his timing is invariably spot on. Is he back? After a very subdued season last year Nistelrooy is off the mark. It’s a perfect start for a striker who is capable of going on incredible scoring runs. His finish against Everton had all the trademarks of his prowess that we have not seen for a while. It hurt Everton.
The Blues came in at the break feeling hard done by the Red Devils. Everton perhaps felt sorry for themselves with what seemed to be an unjust score line. However, no doubt they felt they were still in the game, and rightly so. By the time David Moyes had finished his half-time talk, his side must have been pumped back up with belief. They were going to go back out there and level things and go on to win the game. They were the home side. They were on top despite the score line. They had to go back out and make amends for letting United score so late in the half. They were so fired up. So it couldn’t but knock the confidence out of them when Rooney got a second United goal after just 29 seconds. Heads dropped. And there is no better outfit than United to kill a game when that happens. That’s exactly what the Devils did. There was no way back for Everton. The game was over. Like a bat out of hell Rooney flew out of nowhere and finished Everton off.
O’Shea moved to a more central position when Gabriel Heinze came on as left full in the 72nd minute. United began to lock things up in their own half. Paul Scholes and Roy Keane branched a little wider and maintained possession on the flanks. Everton had very little success along the touchline.
United looked somewhat more comfortable with Van der Sar in goal. His presence alone steadied things up as the game moved along. Der Sar also brings great punts and kick-outs, while his distribution is second to none in the league. It’s a great buy by United, a keeper they badly needed. The lanky Dutch keeper had little or nothing to do in the second half and was never really tested. Everton threw the towel in. It remains to be seen how great of a buy Van der Sar proves to be. He will be tested, as the central defense at United is still unpredictable.
It’s a typical win by the Manchester team. They didn’t go crazy looking to score more goals like they used to back in the Beckham days — back when Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke were scoring at will with the help of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It was Roy Keane who stated that United needed to find other ways to win games, especially in the Champions League. Sitting in on a goal rather than attacking for another became a game plan. The traditional 4-4-2 shape changed to a 4-5-1. The rampant goal-scoring machine slowed down. On moved the Spice and the striking partnership of Cole and Yorke. It’s a different United now. They’re more conservative now. However at the same time they are capable of running riot on a team.
They were in total control in the second half. It could be a sign of things to come from United. They are certainly not the goal-scoring team they used to be. But that could change if we add Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs who were MIA over the weekend. No doubt both wingers will make for a more potent attack at Old Trafford. Will United win the league though? They might if they find a world-class midfielder to help out Roy Keane and Paul Scholes. Alan Smith is not in that league of midfielders. If anybody can win the championship for United, it’s Rooney the bat out of hell.