Though the devastating nature of that FA Cupdefeat might have impacted on their outlook, Everton began in impressively fine fettle. Leon Osman forced a sharp stop from David De Gea, then flashed a shot across the Spaniard's bow. In-between, the spritely midfielder also released Nikica Jelavic, only for De Gea to plunge to his left and hold the Croatian's low shot.
Having been placed so emphatically on the back foot, it was little wonder that nerves swept through United, both on the field and in the stands. Everton were compact and obstinate without the ball, tidy and motivated with it, while the Reds appeared to labour under the pressure of the situation.
It took the efforts of Nani to lift the mood among the home contingent. The Portuguese curled wide of the far post from 20 yards, then forced Howard into a catch with a near-post effort from similar range. When both Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes missed the target in quick succession, there were clear signs that United were warming to the task.
Yet still the visitors looked threatening and purposeful. Ex-Reds midfielder Darron Gibson was a yard off-target with a long-range left-footer and Evans performed a heroic block to rebuff Osman's shot from the edge of the box, and it was on the cards that they would eventually find their range. Just after the half-hour, they did.