22/02/2010 08:10, Report by Stewart Gardner
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Tiredness took its toll

Stewart Gardner is MUTV's chief commentator.

Last week summed up the rollercoaster ride of emotions so often experienced by United fans.

On Tuesday, the Reds made history at the San Siro in one of the best games we've seen for years in the Champions League. Then, four days later, Sir Alex's men were outplayed and often outfought by a tigerish Everton side. That result has now put a real dent in United's title hopes.

You have to hand it to Everton. They were energetic and determined, and the team, which contained several homegrown players, was backed by a partisan crowd and cannily managed by a top young coach. No doubt about it: the Toffees deserved their win. But if you ask me, I think United’s exertions in the San Siro were a major factor in this strangely subdued performance.

I know I was exhausted at full-time in Italy... and I never kicked a ball! It was an emotionally draining game and I’m sure it took its toll on the squad. In the second half at Goodison Park it looked as though United had very little left in the tank. An early kick off at Everton is not what you need after returning from a midweek European trip.

I interviewed Patrice Evra after Saturday’s game and he admitted there was a lot of tiredness in the camp but refused to use that as an excuse for United’s performance. Players are often reluctant to do interviews after a defeat so you have to hand it to Patrice: he was honest and forthright, but clearly hurt by the result.

We did the interview by the side of the pitch at Goodison. After we finished, a few "merry" Everton fans on the balcony of an executive box called out to Patrice and asked him to sign a few autographs. Much to their delight (and, no doubt, surprise), the Frenchman clambered up the stand and obliged. He then headed back to the tunnel. Further along, a few more fans noticed him and called out for the same treatment. Pat must have been desperate to go back down the tunnel and get on the coach back home but, once again, he went up the steps to sign more autographs. He got a massive cheer and rightly so. This showed real class and generosity from a player who was very upset by the afternoon’s events. I imagine the same fans were probably giving him all manner of stick just an hour earlier...

While losing at Everton was disappointing, the good news is that United have a chance to quickly put things right with the visit of West Ham on Tuesday. We're now down to just 11 games to play, though, so any more slip ups could prove fatal. That said, I get the feeling that this compelling title race will contain a few more twists and

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