Early Doors

Fellaini ruins the Van Persie party

Early Doors

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The script demanded a performance of high quality from a man from the Low Countries, and it got one. But while Robin van Persie was stuck on the bench for nearly 70 minutes, instead it was Marouane Fellaini bossing proceedings with a brilliant display in Everton's 1-0 victory over Manchester United.

Schadenfreude was crackling violently in the air in North London as Arsenal's departed captain entered the fray and failed to turn the game in favour of the side that had just paid in excess of £20 million to acquire him. United found themselves beaten in the very first game of the season.

The jokes were flying around. "Fergie wants his money back!" "They should have bought Fellaini!" "Robin van Who?!"

But this was too brief a debut to draw any conclusions, even for an organ as knee-jerk as ED, aside from the basic assumption that Van Persie remains a wondrous player and that the mere act of moving Up North has not made him a bad one. Mind you, look what exposure to the south did to Fernando Torres...

Sir Alex Ferguson pointed out that his players did not use their new Dutch weapon properly; doing so will not be an overnight process.

"We played around him too much, we didn't show enough penetration," said Ferguson. "With Robin in your team you know you want to use his ability against centre-backs in situations he is very good at - but we didn't use him enough."

Though he had one promising moment when he slipped a square pass through the legs of Sylvain Distin to set up Shinji Kagawa, Ferguson was entirely right not to use from the start a player who has hardly kicked a ball since Euro 2012. Van Persie isn't ready just yet; when he is, Arsenal fans will probably pipe down a bit.

An interesting aspect of United's display was that their best player was another summer signing: Kagawa. Situated in the hole behind Wayne Rooney, the Japan international showed enough craft and invention to suggest he will be a fantastic asset for the club. Gliding over the turf and slipping passes around in clever angles, there was a touch of the Andres Iniesta about him.

Yet how do United accommodate him next time when Van Persie will surely start? ED is no tactical expert - it looks upon chalkboards with contempt - but even it can see that Van Persie will be playing up top, meaning Rooney will have to drop a bit deeper. In turn we will probably see Kagawa shifted out to the left, which might be a shame given how effective he seemed as the No. 10.

He was nowhere near as effective as the other advanced midfielder on display though as Fellaini simply took United apart. He was a human wrecking ball, a one-man demolition job. ED is hearing rumours that even the sight of his magnificent afro coming over the horizon will be enough to send United's share price hurtling through the floor in future.

With Tim Cahill having been sold to New York Red Bulls, Fellaini is now the great goalscoring hope from midfield for Everton. Though he has often played in an advanced role, and Cahill did not score many goals last season anyway, the baton has now been firmly passed onto the Belgium international.

He gratefully accepted it with a performance of real authority, the big man scoring the only goal of the game when bullying Michael Carrick once again in the box to head home the winner just before the hour mark.

Not that Ferguson was particularly impressed with Everton's tactics.

"He (Fellaini) is a handful: he is a big, tall, gangly lad and they just lumped the ball forward to him, that's all they did," added Ferguson. "They worked from that base all the time and they got a goal from him, so it's justified."

It was an unfair reading of a game where Everton undoubtedly played some nice stuff at times, and certainly nice enough to deservedly defeat a team expected to challenge for the title.

United will still do so - though only twice in the Premier League has a team lost on the first day and gone on to actually win the thing - and Van Persie has much better days ahead of him in a United shirt.

Still, this wasn't a particularly auspicious start as Fellaini upstaged him easily.

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