To their credit, Everton made a decent fist of it after Giggs’ opener, although failed to test David De Gea until the 29th minute, when the Spaniard flung himself to his left to push away Leon Osman’s dipping 20-yard volley. From the resulting corner, Nemanja Vidic made an exceptional block to deny Kevin Mirallas and van Persie bravely got himself in the way of a Darron Gibson rocket.
Marouane Fellaini, Everton’s star man in the opening-day win at Goodison Park, again posed problems from set pieces and long balls, despite Phil Jones’ almost constant shadowing of the Belgian. United, meanwhile, failed to trouble the Everton goal again until first-half injury time when van Persie doubled the Reds’ advantage.
The Dutchman finally beat the Toffees’ offside trap to collect Rafael’s clever pass and race clear. With Howard advancing, van Persie shaped to shoot but instead dragged the ball to the right and around the goalkeeper before applying a finish that had just enough legs on it to cross the line, albeit with a dash of help from John Heitinga, sliding in to try and prevent the goal.
Van Persie’s strike, his 23rd of the season, gave United a two-goal cushion at the break. But the memories of last season’s corresponding fixture – when Sir Alex’s men threw away a potentially title-clinching 4-2 lead with seven minutes remaining to draw 4-4 – will have ensured there was no complacency in the United dressing room at half-time.
Indeed, the Reds came out in the second period keen to score again, although an injury to Jones forced a subtle shift in approach before the hour mark. On in his place came Michael Carrick – more of a ball player but less of a physical presence – and United’s bluster gave way to a