Everton’s heart deserving of final reward
There is not much romantic about Everton’s current lineup, especially now they are operating without injured Spaniard Mikel Arteta, but the unceasingly honest boys in blue certainly injected some desperately-needed colour to this season’s FA Cup with their penalty-shootout win over Manchester United on Sunday.
Yes it was an awful semi-final, with neither team really testing the opposing goalkeeper, but at least Everton, and their fans, took it seriously.
If United’s reserves had gone through to play Chelsea, again, it would have been another nail in the coffin of a competition that used to be the highlight of the season.
Alex Ferguson decided to rest his big names to keep them fresh for Premier and Champions League action. Everton boss David Moyes couldn’t have done the same even if his team had anything else to play for.
So bye bye to Darron Gibson, Danny Welbeck, Anderson, Federico Macheda and Fabio and Rafael Da Silva. Their day will come, but, thankfully for lovers of the FA Cup and neutrals alike, it will not be Saturday May 30.
Instead, Everton will return to Wembley where victory would earn them the trophy for the sixth time and first since 1995 when they also beat United.
Nobody will be able to say they don’t deserve their chance either, having beaten Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Aston Villa when they were in the top four, and now United in a determined and focused run to the final.
And just as Joe Royle’s “Dogs of War” stifled Roy Keane, Nicky Butt, Lee Sharpe and Paul Ince 14 years ago, Moyes’s industrial unit will look to nullify Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Michael Ballack.
Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar, Marouane Fellaini and United old boy Phil Neville would not be many people’s idea of a dream midfield but they and stand-in forward Tim Cahill, give everything they have got in every game they play.
Moyes, whose odds of succeeding Ferguson as United manager must now have shortened further, knows it, the fans know it, their team mates know it, and Chelsea know it – and that is a powerful combination.
Chelsea can have the Champions League – the final is three days before the Wembley showdown – but for the sake of the game and its oldest and in many people’s eyes, still the best competition, it would be nice for Everton to win the Cup.
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PHOTO: Everton’s Tim Howard saves a penalty from Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand during their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley April 19, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Staples