Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson criticized his own players for failing to utilize Robin van Persie’s talents after they crashed to a surprise 1-0 defeat at Everton.
Van Persie made his eagerly anticipated United debut as a 68th-minute substitute with his new side trailing to Marouane Fellaini’s second-half goal at Goodison Park on Monday, but the Dutch striker, who completed a ￡24 million (US$38 million) move from Arsenal last Friday, was unable to inspire Ferguson’s team, who lost their opening game of the Premier League season for the first time since 2004.
“We played around him too much, we didn’t show enough penetration and with Robin in your team you know you want to use his ability against centerbacks in situations he is very good at, but we didn’t use him enough,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson explained his decision to start Van Persie on the substitutes bench by insisting the striker had not played enough soccer during the pre-season.
“He’s not played any football, given the expectation of him playing at any given moment, it was better for him to start on the substitutes’ bench,” he said. “He’s a great player and there is always the temptation to play him when you have a player like that, but the sensible route is to start him on the bench.”
United were lackluster for long spells and it required a string of fine stops by Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea to prevent Everton from winning by a bigger margin.
Midfielder Leon Osman was outstanding for the hosts, but Ferguson admitted his players failed to handle goalscorer Fellaini.
“He is a handful, he is a big, tall, gangly lad and they just lumped the ball forward to him, that’s all they did,” Ferguson said. “They worked from that base all the time and they got a goal from him, so it’s justified.”
Everton manager David Moyes saluted his players after a fine victory, but refused to get carried away after Everton won an opening game of a season for the first time since 2007.
The hype before the game had centered around Van Persie’s signing and Moyes claimed his side took extra motivation from being largely ignored in the buildup.
“It was all about Manchester United prior to this game and what they have been doing, and I thought that people had called that wrong because Everton are a tough team to beat at Goodison Park,” Moyes said. “Most people going into this game were writing us off and I thought that was a little bit strange. We were starting with more or less the same players that finished last season.”
“In the first half, David de Gea made a couple of great saves. You’re never going to have the ball all the time against United, but when we didn’t have it we kept a good shape and defended well,” he said. “It was a tight game and when we scored United picked it up, and tried to find different ways to try and get back in the game.”
However, Moyes was impressed by Japan international midfielder Shinji Kagawa, who made a solid debut for United, and the Everton manager believes he can make a big impact after joining from Borussia Dortmund.
“United have made some good signings,” Moyes said.
“The Japanese player looks a good signing,” he said.
“To beat Manchester United is hard, but I don’t know if it’s our best performance since I came here,” Moyes said.