van Persie starts Man-U campaign with loss

Marouane Fellaini (left) is hugged by his team-mate after scoring.

LONDON – Robin van Persie started life at Manchester United with a defeat as Everton produced an outstanding performance to deservedly claim victory at Goodison Park this evening.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s 24m signing from Arsenal emerged as a 67th-minute substitute – but he made a quiet introduction and was powerless to prevent United starting the Premier League season with a defeat – their first since they lost at Chelsea in 2004.

And it was fitting that Everton’s winning goal came from the outstanding Marouane Fellaini, who tormented Manchester United’s makeshift defence throughout a thunderous evening on Merseyside.

The giant Belgian’s towering 57th minute header from Leighton Baines’ corner finally ended the defiance of United keeper David de Gea, who had kept Everton at bay with a series of outstanding first half saves.

Leon Osman also struck the crossbar – and when Van Persie was finally introduced Everton had an iron grip on the game and only looked like conceding the advantage Fellaini had given them when Phil Jagielka cleared off the line from Tom Cleverley.

Everton have traditionally been slow starters but in this opening game they dominated United for spells, with keeper Tim Howard only being troubled by the occasional effort from Wayne Rooney.

Goodison Park celebrated the victory noisily at the final whistle, leaving Ferguson to contemplate a lacklustre performance undermined by a reshuffled rearguard in which Michael Carrick never settled in his role as emergency central defender alongside returning captain Nemanja Vidic.

“Manchester United were the better side in the second half by a long way. But Everton for their first-half display, and for the way they defended in the second half, just about deserved it. I think this is the season when, if anyone’s going to get close to the top four, it’s Everton.”

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