According to Goodison Park on Saturday, Manchester and Merseyside are both ‘full of s**t’. Ironically, both inter-city clubs are in the s**t to similar degrees on and off the pitch.
Everton are so skint and subdued that they took on board Denis Stracqualursi, an Argentine striker who was rejected by Leicester City in the summer. Manchester United meanwhile, spunked £50m on prospective signings and were then unable to cater for the present. Money coming into both clubs is placed on interest, fees, debt repayments, personal loans and expenses, and now two of England’s biggest clubs bonded by monetary machinations, are also bonded by poor form.
David Moyes’ Everton are subjected to a vast amount of patronising from the Harry Redknapp-championing media. Yet if you checked the records of English football recently, the Toffees sit fourth on the total titles honours board, not Tottenham. But history is only complemented adequately by the present, and Everton haven’t won a trophy since 1995 and dismally exited the League Cup on Wednesday night.
It is a mark of the club's falling stock that they struggled to equalise against 10-man Chelsea’s second-string for half-an-hour, and then couldn’t force home a winner in extra-time. All in front of a meagre attendance of 23,170 (just half-full), with 20,000 dejected souls left to trudge out morosely after another soul-destroying defeat.
Cause for optimism is scarce on the blue side of Stanley Park as a prospective buyer remains as remote as a Tony Hibbert goal. They don’t at least have to watch their city neighbours speed past them whilst stagnating in second gear though. United haven’t played well since the beginning of September, hamstrung by Tinkerbell’s Terrible Tombola (Sir Alex Ferguson’s selection policy), aborting any chance of stability whilst others are tasked with responsibility when they’re irresponsible executing a pass.
United possess barely a fraction of the pugnacious artisans who populate Everton’s squad, which makes it a fascinating encounter.
Despite just one defeat all season it isn’t an unfair accusation to state that United are out of form. One win out of four league games whilst inviting as many shots at their goal as Swansea, Norwich and Wolves is cause for consternation. If they weren’t champions they would be subjected to the same damning dissections that Arsenal were at the beginning of the campaign.
Their blue hosts on Saturday ended a run of three straight defeats against Fulham at the weekend, after the fixture computer cruelly scheduled Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea on the agenda. Martin Atkinson ensured the middle affair was a write-off, but Everton have rightly not been subjected to doomlordery outside of L4 because they faced a trio of games they weren’t expected to succeed in (Merseyside derby aside).
Inevitably, this match will be billed as the wounded animals scrapping against one another. Yet United possess barely a fraction of the pugnacious artisans who populate Everton’s squad, which makes it a fascinating encounter despite the lethargy-inducing midday kick-off time. Especially considering recent encounters.
Everton have recorded two big results at home against the Red Devils the past two seasons, yet what should have filliped their campaign only signalled a plummet to the depths rather than hitting the heights. Last season United uncharacteristically threw away a two-goal lead, with Gary Neville purportedly playing for a swift end to his stay of execution, to draw when they were 3-1 up in the 90th minute. That was the final scoreline the following campaign when a Landon Donovan-inspired Everton gave a lacklustre United, sapped from a frantic Champions League win in Milan, the run-around.
As far as the Reds are concerned, the hostile greeting from the Gwladys Street Stand is the first day of the rest of their lives after their dosage of derby depression. The Aldershot encounter, whilst a swift reminder that the world keeps turning, was merely a League Cup match. The Premier League however is United’s bread-and-butter, but they will need to be as hungry as their hosts if they’re not to be Everton’s early Saturday kitchen lunch.
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