Four years ago today, Manchester United came from 2-0 down to win 4-2 at Everton in a game that got United fans believing the Premier League trophy would once again be heading to Old Trafford after a four year absence.
The game came just days after the death of Everton and England star Alan Ball and the minute’s applause in his memory appeared to fire up Everton; Joleon Lescott hit the bar within the opening two minutes. Everton were pressing all over the pitch and forcing United into silly errors on the rare occasions they had possession and the Merseysiders took advantage of their pressure just after the ten minute mark, when a long-range Alan Stubbs free-kick deflected in off Michael Carrick.
After going behind, an injury-depleted United began to control the game but rarely tested the Everton ‘keeper and went in at the break 1-0 down. Closest title rivals Chelsea had kicked-off at the same time, and after going behind against Bolton at Stamford Bridge turned things around to lead 2-1 at the half.
If scores stayed the same it meant that Chelsea would go level on points with United with just three games left to play. The score from the London had filtered through to Goodison Park and United picked up where they’d left off after the break and Rooney was unlucky to see his goal-bound effort blocked.
Then out of nowhere a fast-paced Everton counter-attack doubled their lead. Manuel Fernandes knocked the ball past Wes Brown before unleashing a spectacular effort into the top-corner of Edwin van der Sar’s net in the fiftieth minute.
With half an hour left United got a lifeline when the deputising Everton goalkeeper Iain Turner dropped a floated corner at the feet of John O’Shea who dispatched the ball well first-time. The goal sparked United to life and Sir Alex Ferguson sent Cristiano Ronaldo – who wasn’t in the starting line-up because after receiving a knock in training, to warm-up. Within three minutes Ronaldo was on and four minutes after that United were level.
Ronaldo rose above everyone in the box to meet a corner and saw his effort turned into the net by former United man Phil Neville as he attempted to clear the ball off the line.
United bombarded the Everton goal and The Toffees were defending like their lives were depending on keeping United out; throwing their bodies at everything United tried. It was this throwing of bodies that allowed Wayne Rooney to calmly feign a shot to round Tony Hibbert before placing the ball into the net to give United a 3-2 lead with just over ten minutes left.
The Reds weren’t finished and in stoppage time a Wayne Rooney through ball found Chris Eagles, who managed to compose himself following a stumble and score his first – and only, goal for the club.
Meanwhile at Stamford Bridge, Bolton had managed to equalise and earn a point against Chelsea meaning that United were five points clear and that a first title in four years looked destined for Old Trafford.
United’s line-up that day
1. van der Sar; 22. O’Shea, 6. Brown, 4. Heinze, 3. Evra; 20. Solskjaer, 16. Carrick, 18. Scholes, 11. Giggs; 8. Rooney, 14. Smith. Substitutes: 23. Richardson, 7. Ronaldo, 33. Eagles.