LIVERPOOL — Wearing his brown shoes on the sidelines at Goodison Park, Robert Martinez barely left the edge of the pitch the entire game.
Style, substance and subtle, his team had all that and more on Sunday.
The Spanish coach has transformed Everton’s playing style in his first season in charge at Goodison Park, as his team are still in the hunt for a top four spot with three games to go. Sitting on 69 points, the Toffees are also looking at a record points haul, as they stellar season under the Spaniard continues.
One point and one place behind fourth placed Arsenal, the Toffees are focused on qualifying for the UEFA Champions League. However, despite keeping their UCL hopes alive with a 2-0 win over Manchester United on Sunday, they also had another reason to celebrate.
Everton haven’t beaten Man United home and away since the 1969-70 season. That’s something Martinez is delighted to have achieved.
“It is a big thing, we knew since the 1969 we haven’t done the double over United,” Martinez said. “It is one of the things that tells you about this group of players are ready to develop something special. There is a mental side, if you can do the double over the current champions, then there is something special in this group. I always felt we are developing into a strong side. I thought it was important for our fans to today be proud of their team, to have something to remember and have a special memory. It was perfect to give them something back for all the support they have given us.”
With three games left, especially after a demoralizing defeat to Crystal Palace in midweek, this was the kind of performance Martinez was hoping for. Energetic from the start and an extra bite all over the pitch, Everton’s gameplan of soaking up United’s pressure then counter-attacking worked perfectly.
Martinez knew it.
“With three games to go until the end of the season it was the right type of performance,” Martinez said. “We were full of energy, dynamic, on the counter-attack we looked electrifying. We are a very exciting team to watch on the counter-attack. We had to defend and be patient and pick our moments. Once we did that I thought we were terrific. When we saw the lineup with Kagawa, Mata, Nani and Rooney we knew they were going to try to get on the ball and try to take the sting out of the game. That is when as a team you have to be adaptable. I thought we were devastating on the counter-attack, if anything we should’ve scored more. We had good chances, they were on the ball but they never broke us down.”
What about David Moyes and the squad he left Martinez at Everton?
The Toffees boss was full of praise for the building blocks put in place by Moyes as the Spaniard has built his own squad around the framwork Moyes left behind.
“I was a very fortunate man to walk into a football club where everything was in place,” Martinez said. “The work that David did over 11 years was there. Previously I have gone into football clubs that look like a bomb exploded. Believe me the best situation for a manager is to have something like that. Yes, I wanted to change many things, but I didn’t want to lose anything. I brought 10 players in which is a big amount, the senior players were very open to play in a different manner and we gave a massive role to the younger players. That is the big difference in this squad. I thought David Moyes’ job at Everton provided the platform for the performances we have been able to put in this season.”
One area where Martinez outwitted Moyes was on the flanks, especially on the right.
Right back Seamus Coleman created the second goal after a number of marauding runs from the run kept United at bay. Kevin Mirallas scored the second, as he and Coleman tormented United’s left back Alexander Buttner all afternoon.
Speaking of that threat, Martinez revealed he’s extremely happy with the entire balance of his side, as they are in the hunt for a top four position with three games to go.
“It is fair to say that we created that space, we are a very well balanced side,” Martinez said. “We carry threat on the left hand side, Leighton Baines can really hurt you in possession, Seamus Coleman is developing his penetration, then in the middle you have Ross Barkley and Steven Naismith, who is in form at the moment, I thought we were a well-balanced team today. We had to be patient. It was the first time this season we gave the ball to the opposition, but the way we used it in our favor was quite impressive.”