Everton kept alive their Champions League challenge and officially killed off Manchester United’s lingering top-four hopes as David Moyes endured a wretched return to Goodison Park.
Scorers: Everton - Baines (28pen), Mirallas (43)
Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas were on target to give Roberto Martinez’s side an easy 2-0 win.
Moyes’ picture takes pride of place alongside the likes of Dixie Dean and Alan Ball on an Everton timeline that stretches around Goodison Park. But the Everton fans made it clear that they no longer hold their former manager in the same esteem.
Moyes, who was in charge at the Merseyside club for 11 years, was mocked throughout this incredibly one-sided encounter. One home fan even turned up dressed as the Grim Reaper to poke fun at the Scot from just behind his seat in the away dugout.
The Reaper, and his inflatable scythe, was ejected from the stadium with 15 minutes on the clock, but he must have known by then that his team would emerge with the three points.
United, quite simply, never looked like taking anything from the match.
John Stones and Sylvain Distin kept Wayne Rooney quiet, and United were out-muscled and out-classed in midfield while Tim Howard was called into action on two occasions.
Phil Jones gifted Everton the lead when he handballed Romelu Lukaku’s shot and Baines – who was the subject of what Everton called an “insulting and derisory” £12 million bid last summer – scored from 12 yards. The sloppy Alex Buttner played Mirallas onside for the second just before half-time and he beat David de Gea from a tight angle. The result and performance from both teams showed just how far United have regressed and how much Everton have come on under Roberto Martinez.
For United, Champions League qualification is now mathematically impossible. For Everton, their dreams of dining at Europe’s top table are very much alive and few would back against them based on this performance.
Martinez’s men are now just one point behind fourth-placed Arsenal with three games left. The run-in looks to be an exciting and potentially successful one for the red and blue sides of Merseyside.
Baines admitted Moyes’ return was important for those inside Goodison. “I think it [was important] for the fans,” he said. “As you can see it meant a lot to them. I guess in some respects the victory is for them. We were disappointed midweek to let them down so we wanted to respond. We wanted to respond, we wanted to show we’ve got that grit about us and we’ve proved it today.”
While Everton are battling to be in the Champions League next season, United now cannot make the top four and Moyes already has his sights set on getting back up there next season.
“It’s part of this club, we want to be in it and we’ll do everything we can to get ourselves back in it as quickly as we can,” he said. “We’ve already done that and we’re doing that behind the scenes just now. We’ll try and do everything we possibly can to try and get a team which is capable of winning better than we have done recently.”
Moyes was pleased with his side’s performance against Martinez’s men but admitted he was disappointed with his players for the two goals.
“We gave away two terrible goals but prior to that we passed the ball brilliantly well, kept the ball, had great control of the game,” he added. “What we couldn’t do is make enough chances but we had a great control and we got done by two stupid decisions.”