Manchester Utd 4 - 4 Everton (2012)


I’m starting to wonder if it’s appropriate to continue to do these pieces, given the mess both the team and the club as a whole are in at the moment.

I’ll go ahead with this one as I feel it’s relevant – this lookback ties in to the long-standing culture of complacency at our club that has led to the situation we’re in now.


22 April 2012 was the day I knew we were officially done as a force in the game.

Who am I kidding – we were finished long before this. I guess this was just the moment that brought it home.


I’m talking about the 4-4 draw at Old Trafford. Many will see this as a bizarre choice, especially since the team had the fight and character to come back from 4-2 down.


Honestly, I only switched the game on when the score was 4-2, so I could only react to what I saw. And I could see that Man Utd’s heads were down, their defence was all over the place, and Everton clearly had momentum on their side. I’m convinced that, if we’d carried on attacking, we’d have won there for the first time in 20 years.


Instead, the response was to back off and invite them to attack again. It took a decent save from Tim Howard to keep out an effort from Rio Ferdinand in injury time, and I believe that if the game had carried on for a few more minutes, they’d have found a winner. 


When I revisited the Fiorentina game recently, I went into the pros and cons of continuing to attack after equalising. I won't bore readers with another essay about it now. All I’ll say is, that day at Old Trafford seemed like one of those times when the opponents were on the ropes, an appropriate time to be more aggressive and go for it.


Furthermore, Everton had nothing to play for in the league, and, with just a couple of games remaining before the summer, if they had conceded, any potential adverse impact on morale or team confidence would have been minimal.


I found the lack of ambition in not going for the victory disappointing, but it was the reaction to the result that alarmed me, both at the final whistle and beyond.


For years afterwards, maybe to this day, those comeback goals were shown on the big screen at Goodison as part of the pre-match montage, as though it were a key moment in the club’s history. Well, for me it was, but for all the wrong reasons.


The points Man Utd dropped that day proved costly as they were pipped to the title on goal difference. Now, I’m aware of the Liverpool – Manchester rivalry, and I live outside the city, in a small town in the north-west, and, like most towns in the area (maybe even in the country), 90% of the fans are evenly split between Liverpool and Manchester United. So I know how satisfying it is to stick it to them and put one over on them (even if we did take more points from eventual champions Manchester City that season). 


It shouldn’t be a cause for celebration or seen as some kind of achievement by the club though. West Ham got a couple of results to de-rail Man Utd’s title bids in the early- and mid-90s and many of their fans still take pride in that. Why? With their history and tradition, West Ham should be better than that. And we certainly should be.


Back to the end of that game, and the way the players reacted, you’d think the point gained had clinched the title for Everton. I said it at the time and I maintain it now, the sight of our players heading for the tunnel with big grins on their faces – high-fiving each other because they’d drawn – was embarrassing. 


Maybe I’m being overly cynical in my criticism of them. Maybe they were showing some professional pride. For full context, 8 days earlier, they’d lost the FA Cup semi-final to an out-of-sorts Liverpool, after taking the lead and with the Reds having to rely on their 3rd choice goalkeeper. So perhaps, after feeling like they’d let everyone down the week before, they felt some relief at getting a result and especially in coming back in the manner that they did.


In isolation, I could come round to that idea. Unfortunately, it was the latest in a series of incidents throughout that season that just demonstrated the dampened expectations of both the club and, it seemed, the majority of the more vocal supporters. In my opinion, 2011-12 was the tipping point for the ambition and status of the club.


Bill Kenwright’s image on the big screen being mostly applauded in September, the minority who did try to protest at the time being largely dismissed and ridiculed by their fellow supporters, the manager stating in January that “the bank wanted the money” after making a public statement about how he made the decision to sell Mikel Arteta for footballing reasons just 4 months earlier… This along with David Moyes's 10th anniversary as the manager being treated as if it were a major trophy (didn’t the club even bring out a DVD commemorating the occasion?!), and now this.


The way the draw was celebrated sent a message to fans of other clubs that this was the biggest result of our season. I had people in work the next day saying that it must have compensated for losing the semi-final and that finishing above Liverpool would also make up for it. “I’d rather have won the semi-final” was my only response…


Ah yes, finishing above Liverpool. For me, that should only be celebrated if Liverpool finish 2nd (or maybe 18th! – but that’s just as unlikely as us ever winning the league again).


Coming so soon after that semi-final defeat, for me it symbolised that we’d become a team of spoilers and a club of haters. We had no aspirations to win anything ourselves so would take pride in throwing a spanner into someone else’s bid to win something. We’d basically become Wimbledon (but without an FA Cup to show for our efforts).


And the small-time happy clapping didn’t end there. After “celebrating” finishing 7th because Liverpool had finished 8th, we had the end-of-season awards, in which Phil Neville was given Goal of the Season for an effort in the League Cup which, if the ToffeeWeb threads at the time are anything to go by, no-one could even remember! 


Many comments did speculate, though, that this award was the club hierarchy’s way of showing their appreciation for his continuing public support for and defence of the board and chairman. 


While our players were patting themselves on the back and giving each other awards for drawing and finishing 7th, Liverpool were looking into possible replacements for Kenny Dalglish. Finishing 8th winning a trophy and reaching 2 finals wasn’t good enough for them, and no sentiment was shown to Dalglish’s history or standing within the club.   


They hired Brendan Rogers, and 2 years later they would be in with a shout of winning the title on the last day of the season. Less than 18 months after this, Rogers was replaced and we all know the rest.


Going back to Everton, and the reality of what we’d become just continued to grip. I used to take pride in the fact that some of the top teams, Arsenal and Man City in particular, had a hard time coming to Goodison Park. It started to dawn on me though that it was for the wrong reasons.


While the fervent atmosphere generated by our supporters helped us and intimidated them, they still didn’t dread their visits to Goodison in the way teams used to crumble when going to Anfield or Old Trafford, facing an already great opponent who now had home advantage. No, they hated it the way we used to hate going to Plough Lane. [Two Wimbledon analogies in one article. It’s that bad.]


In the months that followed, there was just a sad inevitability about things:


Inevitably, Jelavic’s goals dried up the following season.


Inevitably, yet another talented youngster, this time Jack Rodwell, was sold. 


The only difference this season was that money had been spent before this sale, and spent wisely, making Steven Pienaar’s loan return permanent and also bringing in Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith, who were settled before the season began and so, to my surprise, Everton started the season brightly for the first time in 5 years.


But still, the lack of ambition and small-time mentality kept coming. Inevitably, after making noises about wanting to win silverware, they fielded the reserves in the League Cup at Leeds and lost in a tepid display.


Inevitably, the first string saved their worst performance of the season for the biggest game, the FA Cup Quarter-Final at home to relegation-bound Wigan. While upsets can happen and Wigan would go on to beat Man City in the final, we were 0-3 down mid-way through the first half, the rest of the game being played to an empty Park End as everyone knew they weren’t going to come back.


And, just like the year before, Everton were in action against the Champions the following weekend, and once again, they reacted by giving them a bloody nose, this time beating Man City at home to further derail their already flimsy title defence.


And again, there was an air that the players had redeemed themselves, rather than being interpreted it as yet another example of the team/club failing to accomplish anything themselves and so taking pleasure in wrecking someone else’s attempts to do so. 


Oh, and the Finishing-Above-Liverpool Cup was won again, and celebrated accordingly. By then, Moyes was on his way. The celebration of statistics in the absence of trophies rather summed up his time at the club – remember the “100 years of top-flight football” during his first full season in charge?! (still waiting for No Other Team to enter the charts).


Not that any of these celebrations were endorsed or encouraged by Moyes himself, who, to be fair, seemed uncomfortable with the fuss being made. And at the time of writing, he’s in with a good chance of winning a real trophy, ironically with the aforementioned West Ham, and ironically they were also the opponents for what everyone already knew would be his last home game in charge. 


The hero’s send-off Moyes was given that day irked many but, after what I’d witnessed in 2011-12, came as no surprise to me. Nor has anything that’s happened at the club since. A list too long and too painful to go into now.


11 years after that thrilling 4-4 draw at the home of the then Champions, many supporters are pleased, or at least relieved, with a 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park (another Wimbledon connection!). But the seeds for where we are now were sown long before…


Everton had been in decline for many years but, for me, for all the happenings, both on and off the pitch, the 2011-12 season saw the transition from Big 5 to ‘plucky little Everton’ complete.



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Reader Comments (8)

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Michael Kenrick
1 Posted 23/04/2023 at 10:18:25
I have to admit, David, that my own enthusiasm for these contributions of yours was flagging somewhat but this one certainly hit a nerve that remains raw despite (or more likely because of) the intervening years of astounding decline.

I can recall getting plenty of abuse on here for daring to rail against the serially mediocre management of David Moyes, and his persistent dumbing down of Everton as a force – in full service to the mediocrity message pushed persistently by his and Everton's greatest fan, Bill Kenwright as 'justification' (ie, excuses) for Everton's increasing lack of success.

I was trying to tie the most cringe-worthy Magnificent Seventh DVD into your narrative but I think in fairness that was a few years earlier... and should have been an ominous portent of things to come.

But I think you're right: blood-letting over such events long since past should not sully the single-mindedness needed to overcome the most dire situation we now face, even if the events you recall represent telling stages of decline along the evolutionary pathway that has brought us here.

Dave Abrahams
2 Posted 23/04/2023 at 14:15:12
Good post (David) and a good response by Michael (1).

I remember that game at Old Trafford vividly and the game before even more so. At Wembley in the defeat by a very poor Liverpool team with a third-choice goalkeeper between the posts, Moyes showed his true dour miserable defeatist side completely.

We went in at half-time 1-0 ahead and instead of going out and attacking Liverpool, he went ultra defensive with just one, very weak, shot at the Liverpool goal from Leon Osman which Jones the goalie dropped and saved at the second attempt.

Distan gave the equaliser to Liverpool and Carrol finished us off. I met a friend outside Wembley after the game and he said to me “Dave we could have wrote the script for that game last week, couldn't we?” Enough said.

The next week ,with Baines out injured, if I'm not mistaken, we faced Man Utd and scored 4 and could have won but, as stated above, went on the defence and nearly lost the game.

I was well up to the Moyes - Kenwright duo by then, Moyes knew something about football but not too much while Kenwright knew then what he knows now: nothing about football.

I'm glad to say that at the end of that “love-in” for Moyes at the end of his final game as manager, I was up on my toes and down the stairs of the Upper Bullens and out in the street.

Andy Crooks
3 Posted 23/04/2023 at 17:10:21
Good stuff, David.

I remember that day well. Left a pub full of Man Utd fans at 4-2. Called at the shop on the way home and heard the final score. I contemplated returning to the stadium but, sensibly, went home on a high.

What has hit me most about your article is that it was 11 years ago!!! Where did that go???

Lee Courtliff
4 Posted 23/04/2023 at 18:19:49
Totally agree apart from one thing... I never considered the sale of Rodwell as a loss. I stated many times that I thought he was the most overrated player I'd ever seen at Goodison.

Our demise from Big 5 to Spoilers started a long time ago but those examples you mentioned really hit home.

I remember celebrating draws, hoping Liverpool or Man Utd lost the semi-final because we weren't even in it, and a host of other things that scream Small Time!!

We're a bit pathetic really, 28 years without a trophy of any kind, hundreds of millions spent and on the brink of relegation.

Maybe, and I can't believe I'm saying this, we need to accept our new place in the pecking order of English football and become a Yo-Yo club! At least then we'd get to celebrate something every few years.

Look at Burnley this season, their fans have had a party nearly every week! That could be us soon.

I hate myself for saying that but I'm near enough defeated, on the ropes, battered and bruised, and hoping the ref steps in to end it all.

Brian Denton
5 Posted 23/04/2023 at 18:36:21
I would say they were Wimbledon references rather than Wimbledon analogies...
James Flynn
6 Posted 24/04/2023 at 15:14:38
A poorly written rant at the Club's Moyes era by using that particular game. 10 years, a decade after he left, STILL clinging to Moyes?

"22 April 2012 was the day I knew we were officially done as a force in the game."

Really, REALLY? When the whistle blew a few minutes after Pienaar scored our 4th, is that the very thought you had?

Here' where you should have stopped: "the team had the fight and character to come back from 4-2 down."

In fact, we were dead and that game was "over" twice; at 3-1 with 30 minutes to go and at 4-2 in the 81st minute.

It was Rooney's 2nd with 20 minutes to go where ManU dropped it down a gear, but we kept attacking and got to 4-4 in the 85th minutes.

There was no revert to form, for God's sake, after Pienaar's goal. It was two tired teams finishing a hard-fought game. Nothing more.

The players celebrated because:

A. Ferguson's United at home were hell to play against for ANY club.

B. The Team never gave in.

That's it. That's all that happened that day, a terrific comeback.

Oh, and in this inexplicable take on what is now ancient history, you forgot to write about the game.

Phil Hamer
7 Posted 27/04/2023 at 17:56:21
I don't think I have ever seen a website co-ordinator, on receiving a voluntary article from a contributor, say 'I have to admit my own enthusiasm for these contributions of yours was flagging somewhat...'. That's a brutal thing to say and I imagine will finish David's excellent series of articles stone dead.

FWIW, I always enjoy these blasts from the past and hope they keep coming, but I doubt this 4-4 draw at the reigning champions really made you stand up and say 'That's it, we're done as a force in the game...' Bit of revisionism going on here?

Every single one of us would give our right arm to have the sort of problems now (ie, only ever finishing 5th-7th) that we had under David Moyes.

Dale Self
8 Posted 27/04/2023 at 18:30:18
Yeah that was clever.

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