The Glazers may be crippling Manchester United's finances, but Everton's non-existant resources prolonged their wretched record against their inter-city rivals.
Not so long ago this game would have been seen as a battle between two giants of English football. Now, sadly, it’s seen as little more than a formality for Manchester United. Fans that are unaware football existed pre-Premier League may be surprised to hear that in the twenty years before 1992, Everton had the edge over their rivals up the East Lancs Road. From 1972 to 1992, the teams met 38 times with Everton winning 13, United winning 11, and 14 draws. Prior to the inception of the Premier League both sides were of a similar stature - Everton had won the English title on nine occasions to United’s seven; United had won a European Cup but boasted only two trophies more in total.
Usually the games were tight affairs, however, on Boxing Day 1977 when a high-flying Everton in 2nd spot faced a struggling United side in 14th, the Reds were rampant and thrashed Everton 6-2. Despite the disparity in league positions at this time financially the two sides were able to compete with each other and each had star players that were capable of playing for any side in the country. Nowadays, the gap between top and bottom is so huge that star players from the smaller clubs are almost certain to be vacuumed up by the big four, and it’s unlikely that we will see an Everton side inflict a defeat on Manchester United at Old Trafford like they inflicted on Everton that Boxing Day.
Over the next few years, subsequent games were tight affairs - the next 12 saw each side win three times, and six draws. By the time of their meeting on 27 October 1984, both sides had recently won the FA Cup - United beating Brighton 4-0 after a replay in 1983, and Everton beating Watford 2-0 in 1984. On that sunny late October afternoon, United came into the game on the back of a 1-0 win against Spurs and Everton had just beaten champions Liverpool at Anfield - their first win there since 1970. Coming into the game United were perched in 3rd place, whilst Everton were just below them in 4th. As previous years, people were expecting a tight affair yet Everton steamrollered United 5-0, in what many regard as one of the finest performances in our history. The next few years saw Everton gain the upper hand, winning seven of the next 16 games and United winning just three. But whilst Everton were maintaining their ascendency on the pitch, off the pitch the two clubs' fortunes were beginning to change.
From 1989, United began to go from strength to strength off and on the pitch. The FA Cup win in 1990 saw Alex Ferguson lift his first trophy, whilst the following season they won the European Cup Winners' Cup in Rotterdam against Barcelona - and this was, of course, just the beginning. Under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson, they have won twelve league titles in 20 years, four more FA Cups, and two Champions League trophies. Everton, meanwhile, have floundered. Despite being one of the main players in the inception of the Premier League, this era has not been kind to the Toffees. Twenty-four years of incompetent ownership has seen the club, once known as ‘The Mersey Millionaires’, become paupers of the Premier League; a poor relative of their neighbours across Stanley Park and also of their not-so-near Mancunian neighbours. The club’s trophy cabinet has remained bare with only one trophy in those years, ironically against United in the 1995 FA Cup final - testament to the clubs stagnation.
The Premier League era has most definitely belonged to Manchester United and, as with the era looked at above, the teams have met 38 times. Now, however, United have won 28 of these games with Everton winning on just four occasions – only six games have been drawn. Three of Everton’s victories have been at Goodison Park, with just one at Old Trafford. This solitary away win came in the first Premier League game between the two sides, as Everton beat United 3-0 with goals from Beardsley, Warzycha, and Johnston. The two sides met again 24 days later and United cruised to a 2-0 win. This would set the tone for the majority of Everton’s encounters with United during ‘the Premier League years’, with them barely needing to get out of second gear.
The game on Saturday was a stark reminder of the financial gap between the two clubs, the total cost of United’s squad was almost £180m, whereas Everton’s cost about £45m.
In 1994, Everton narrowly escaped relegation from the top flight with a last-day 3-2 win against Wimbledon, and by the time they and United next met in October 1994, the Toffees still hadn’t won since that game and were rooted at the bottom of the table. Manager Mike Walker was seemingly waiting for a taxi to take him back to East Anglia and the Red Devils, double winners the previous season, were struggling by their standards as two early season defeats to Leeds and Ipswich saw them struggling in 4th place. The game itself was nondescript, with goals from Kanchelskis and Lee Sharpe giving Ferguson's team a very comfortable 2-0 win. More surprising was the post-match news that Everton had agreed a double loan deal with Glasgow Rangers for Ian Durrant and Duncan Ferguson. Durrant’s short loan spell was memorable only for having his name spelled incorrectly on his shirt. The other loanee, however, prospered. And after scoring his first goal for Everton in his first Merseyside derby (which was the first game of Joe Royle’s tenure as Everton manager) he scored six goals in his next 10 games.
By the time the two sides met again in February 1995, a Royle-inspired Everton had pushed their way out of the relegation zone and become a tough side to defeat. United were trailing Blackburn in the league and had recently been hit by the loss of talisman Eric Cantona following that incident with Matthew Simmons at Selhurst Park. A defeat would be harmful to both sides in their respective quests to survive and win the title. As expected, the game was a tough battle as combative midfields containing Horne and Parkinson and Keane and Ince fought tenaciously, and the early spell of the game was controlled by the visitors with Cole and Hughes missing gilt-edged chances. Towards the end of the half Ebbrell had a decent chance to give Everton the lead but fluffed his shot, and then in the second-half, just before the hour, Everton won a corner. Andy Hinchcliffe, who had been struggling with his set-pieces in the previous few weeks, whipped in a great corner and Ferguson rose majestically to head past Schmeichel. Ferguson wheeled off towards the Gwladys Street stand, whipped his top off and twirled it over his head as he ran down the touchline. This was a big win for Everton and went someway to lifting the club and securing their Premier League status for another year.
The next 10 years were a barren time for Everton - they faced United on 19 occasions but only managed three draws. By 2005, Everton’s fortunes had changed somewhat - David Moyes was appointed in 2002 and they were challenging for 4th position and a Champions League place - United were a distant 3rd third behind champions-elect Chelsea. On a mild April evening, a packed Goodison welcomed former favourite Wayne Rooney with a chorus of jeers as another Ferguson header, from a Mikel Arteta cross, separated the two sides with Gary Neville and Paul Scholes sent off.
Since that night, Everton have only defeated United once, in a 3-1 win in February 2010 at Goodison Park. I have spoken to some fans who believe that Moyes’ negative attitude is to blame for our poor record at Old Trafford but there were four managers before Moyes who also failed to win there. Moyes has the best record against them at Old Trafford of any of our managers in the Premier League era, drawing twice. The latest game was played on Saturday, with United winning 1-0 courtesy of an early Javier Hernandez goal. Everton were probably the better side overall, but a lack of potency up front let us down and the only real threat the Reds faced was a first half free kick from Baines which rattled the crossbar leaving David de Gea helpless.
In the 1970’s, United and Spurs were both surprisingly relegated from the top flight - nowadays the relegation battle is invariably between the three promoted sides and the usual Premier League strugglers. The days of Nottingham Forest coming up and winning the title and the European Cup are now sadly long gone and the Premier League and the Champions League are becoming tournaments that only a select few can properly compete in or get into, let alone win.
The game on Saturday was a stark reminder of the financial gap between the two clubs, the total cost of United’s squad was almost £180m, whereas Everton’s cost about £45m. The visitors' substitutes cost about £90m, dwarfing Everton’s £1.25m benchwarmers. When the recent games between the two clubs are looked objectively, it also shows us the football gap that exists and it is unreasonable to expect Everton to be able to do any better.
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