There had to be a backlash after Manchester United's 6-1 derby defeat, and the one Sir Alex Ferguson unveiled was more severe than anyone had imagined in beating Everton 1-0 at Goodison Park.
With Wayne Rooney withdrawn into a midfield role in which he was industrious but inconspicuous, hardly getting a touch of the ball in a goalscoring position, United played with a functional conservatism that verged on the boring. Javier Hernández operated on his own up front and scored the winning goal, but the new United decided most uncharacteristically that one goal would be sufficient. Not only did the erstwhile Red Devils fail to show their usual appetite for attack, or any other form of devilment, their manager was unapologetic about it.
"It's about time we won 1-0," Ferguson said. "That was the aspect of the game that pleased me most, that and restricting Everton to very few chances. We had to do something about the fact that opponents have been getting too many opportunities to score against us in recent weeks. We knew we had to reduce that number if we are going to win the league, and reinforcing the midfield was one way of doing it. We brought Wayne back to increase our numbers in midfield. We had to battle in the second half, and to be honest we rode our luck a bit, but we got the result we wanted."
The plan seemed to work, although only at the expense of the usual rip‑roaring atmosphere when United visit Everton. Apart from Rooney's repositioning, the most conspicuous casualties of the Old Trafford drubbing were Anderson, dropped altogether, and Rio Ferdinand, relegated to the bench, with Jonny Evans quickly reinstated to defence after his dismissal in the defeat by Manchester City.
Ferdinand was not at his most impressive in the Manchester derby, and his mood would not have been lightened by his manager singling out his fellow central defender Nemanja Vidic for praise. "It was a fantastic performance by Vidic," Ferguson said. "Every time the ball came into our box he got it clear, and that was the key for us. That's his speciality: he has great heading ability."
Tom Cleverley came back to rejoin United's midfield but limped off midway through the second half. "He's just turned his ankle, we don't think it's anything too serious," Ferguson said. "We are going to be without Chris Smalling for a month though, he cracked a bone in his foot during training."