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Joe Strange - Everton v United was a modern day classic

Published: 13 Sep 2010 - 12:00:21

Since the Premier League's inception in 1992, Everton versus Manchester United has historically been a series of predictable, one-sided affairs.

Not anymore.

Over recent seasons, games between the two clubs have taken on an altogether more competitive, passionate and sometimes hate-filled nature. And Saturday's lunchtime clash couldn't have provided a more perfect example.

The build-up to the game gave us all the necessary ingredients for something special to occur at Goodison Park. The home side's poor start to the campaign had fans wondering if all their pre-season optimism was nothing more than wishful thinking, while the visitors' draw at Fulham meant they were immediately playing catch-up to the Chelsea juggernaut.

Add to the mix two fiery Scottish managers, one of whom is consistently linked as a potential successor to the other, and the return of a certain Mr Rooney, and Sky's decision to screen the game live seemed like a masterstroke.

Wayne has never received anything but a hostile reception on his return to the blue half of Merseyside, but the animosity shown towards him has naturally decreased as the years have passed.

But after allegations of his less than wholesome off-field antics, the Goodison faithful were licking their lips in anticipation of welcoming back their former hero.

Wise to the abuse his star man was sure to receive, Sir Alex Ferguson decided to drop him from the squad entirely. Whether this was a sensible decision given United's failure to secure what looked like a certain three points, remains up for debate.

While Rooney's absence undoubtedly lessened the vociferous atmosphere, it allowed the Toffees' support to rally behind their team rather than focus on the indiscretions of their once-loved striker. Yes, there was a blow-up doll thrown around the Gladys Street accompanied by a deafening chant of 'Rooney, Rooney', but apart from that the focus was kept solely on the game and the pursuit of three valuable points.

David Moyes' men have developed a slightly unwanted reputation for playing their best football against the big teams and often failing to show up against sides from the bottom half of the table. This was on full display as they dominated the opening exchanges, eventually taking a deserved lead shortly before half time.

But, United being United, fought back almost instantly, finding themselves 3-1 up just 28 minutes after Steven Pienaar's openener. Most sides would've crumbled at this point, having resigned themselves to another seemingly inevitable defeat to Fergie's ever-impressive side. But not Everton.

Buoyed by their encouraging performance and territorial advantage, Moyes' players refused to roll over and die, instead producing an ending with all the excitement of a Hollywood blockbuster.

Two goals in injury time salvaged a well-deserved point for the Blues, leaving Ferguson fuming at his players' failure to see out a game they seemed to have wrapped up.

The beauty of football summed up in the space of just a minute and 19 seconds. Well, maybe not if you're a United fan.

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:joe strange
A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.

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