Goalscorers: Nikica Jelavic 33, 83, Wayne Rooney 41, 69, Danny Welbeck 57, Nani 60, Marouane Fellaini 67, Steven Pienaar 85
Manchester United: David de Gea, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Rio Ferdinand, Rafael, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes (Phil Jones 86), Nani, Antonio Valencia (Javier Hernandez 89), Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck
Everton: Tim Howard, Sylvain Distin (Tim Cahill 83), John Heitinga, Tony Hibbert, Phil Jagielka, Phil Neville, Darron Gibson, Marouane Fellaini, Leon Osman (James McFadden 64), Steven Pienaar, Nikica Jelavic
Referee: Mike Jones, Attendance: 75,522
Manchester United seemed to be on the edge of glory and a 20th English league title when Everton visited Old Trafford in April 2012. Despite a recent defeat to Wigan, the Red Devils still went into the weekend five points clear of their noisy neighbours, Manchester City and odds-on to retain the championship. However, Everton were about to give the title race another magnificent twist.
David Moyes’ side were in their own private battle to finish top of the Merseyside clubs and after imposing themselves on the contest in the opening 30 minutes, they took the lead in the 33rd minute. Tony Hibbert’s deep cross picked out Nikica Jelavic and the Croatian continued his recent rich vein of scoring form to find the net again and become the club’s top goalscorer for the season.
The goal woke Manchester United up and four minutes before half-time, they drew themselves level. Preferred to start ahead of Ashley Young, Nani provided a devilish delivery from the left-hand side and against the club where he’d started his career; Wayne Rooney converted from close-range.
Then, there was a period of four goals in 10 breathless minutes which seemed to have taken the game away from Moyes’ men. On 57 minutes, Nani passed to Danny Welbeck, who jinked away from John Heitinga before producing a beautiful shot into the top corner of Tim Howard’s goal. Three minutes later, Nani justified his selection even further by grabbing United’s third goal as the roles were reversed. This time, it was Welbeck who turned goal provider and Nani’s chip beat Tim Howard.
Everton hadn’t won at The Theatre of Dreams since August 1992 but they were determined not to wilt under pressure and gave themselves a lifeline in the 67th minute. Hibbert claimed his second assist of the day with another troubling cross from the right-hand side. Marouane Fellaini’s control was superb and his instant volley flashed beyond David de Gea.
No sooner had the Toffees closed the gap though, Rooney restored the league leaders’ two-goal cushion. He linked up brilliantly with Welbeck and this goal was his 180th for Manchester United, to go fourth in their all-time goalscorers’ list. It was his 33rd of the season in all competitions.
Patrice Evra then hit the post and this missed opportunity from the Frenchman would ultimately prove to be a big moment. When Phil Neville’s hopeful ball wasn’t cleared away decisively by Rio Ferdinand, Jelavic was in the right place to grab his second goal of the afternoon.
There were still seven minutes left for Everton to grab an equaliser and they only needed two of those to draw level. Fellaini found some space in the penalty area and he picked out on-loan midfielder Steven Pienaar who scored to make it 4-4. It proved to be a vital scoreline and Manchester United missed out on retaining the title on goal difference. Everton held on to beat Liverpool FC in the table, finishing 7th.