Everton 1 Manchester United 0: Fellaini’s brings a head start 4

Fellaini scores his first goal for the start of the Premiership

Fellaini scores his first goal for the start of the Premiership

Robin van Persie says he came to Manchester United to win trophies. On Monday night an enthralling performance from Everton — and in particular their powerful forward Marouane Fellaini — ensured the Holland striker will have to wait a week longer to win his first game.

First and foremost, Van Persie will hope he is in the team for United’s home game against Fulham.

The £24million signing from Arsenal spent 68 minutes on the bench. Having seen Wayne Rooney labour through one of his worst performances in a United shirt, he may have cause to wonder why.

By the time Van Persie did come on, United were lucky to be only one goal down. As they pushed for an equaliser in the closing moments, their new signing found himself taking corners and throw-ins. It was that kind of night.

At full time, Goodison Park bounced and shook. Everton had played some football evocative of glorious years gone by and as they resisted United’s late surge to edge over the line to a thoroughly deserved victory their fans  celebrated a terrific start to their season.

Former United captain Gary  Neville suggested rather impishly afterwards that Everton may find themselves fending off interest in the marauding Fellaini. What he probably doesn’t know is that United, along with many other  English clubs, were alerted to him before Everton bought him from Standard Liege in 2008.

The 24-year-old was almost unplayable. Clearly fancying his chances against a United back four that featured Michael Carrick at centre half, a decision forced on Sir Alex Ferguson by injury, and Antonio Valencia at right-back — that one wasn’t — Fellaini imposed himself all night.

The Belgian is much more than a battering ram. If he offered only a physical threat he wouldn’t play much of his football in such deep positions.

His presence in the United penalty area was undeniably difficult to deal with, though, and his winning goal in 57th minute was a thing of beauty.

Set-pieces are always useful to Everton owing to the quality of Leighton Baines’ delivery. And when the England left-back struck a corner into the area, Fellaini climbed above Carrick to power a header into the bottom corner.

Defensive coaches will ask why Carrick was marking Everton’s most dangerous aerial threat and also wonder why Danny Welbeck had vacated his position on the post.

Nevertheless it would be churlish to take anything away from Fellaini’s goal. It was one of which the watching Duncan Ferguson would have been proud.

United could not complain about being behind. They had enjoyed a reasonable amount of possession throughout but much of it had been in the wrong areas. Everton, when in possession, were far more  purposeful and forthright.

Everton should have been ahead by half-time and that they weren’t was largely down to the contribution of United goalkeeper David de Gea.

This time last year the Spaniard was reflecting on a debut that had seen him concede a goal from West Brom’s Shane Long that your average Sunday League player would have stopped with an a outstretched foot.

For a while, it seemed to have set the tone of his time at Old Trafford.

Fellaini maybe should have scored early on after bullying Valencia and Carrick out of the way before hitting the outside of the post but from then on it was great goalkeeping, rather than below-par finishing, that kept United in the game.

Ferguson’s team did have some chances. Tim Howard saved from a Rooney free-kick and then saw the same player turn on a Welbeck cross only to shoot straight at him.

Nani, meanwhile, worried Howard from distance while Welbeck was denied by successive blocks from the excellent Phil Jagielka.

Will Robin Van Persie win trophies this year as he wanted?

Will Robin Van Persie win trophies this year as he wanted?

In all honesty, though, the significant action took place at the other end of the field. De Gea blocked an angled shot from Nikica Jelavic after neat and incisive Everton approach play, tipped a Stephen Pienaar header over from the resulting corner and then dived to his left to turn a low shot from Everton’s talented South African past the post.

However, saves from Leon Osman and Baines as half-time neared will be long remembered. On both occasions, De Gea used one hand — an unorthodox technique — to make the save as Osman turned on to a Fellaini knockdown to volley towards the top corner and then Baines whipped in a free-kick that took a deflection from the shoulder of Valencia.

It had been a performance of near perfection from De Gea and one wondered during the interval whether United would gather themselves and re-emerge ready to roll. That didn’t turn out to be the case, though.

The crowd were still settling back in their seats when Osman turned on to yet another Fellaini assist to crash a shot against the underside of the bar.

Soon after the goal arrived and that was the prompt for Ferguson to introduce Van Persie. It was asking a lot for the 29-year-old to turn a game round all on his own and it was no surprise that he couldn’t manage it.

There was one neat nutmeg to set up a chance for Welbeck only for Howard to smother at the near post. In another moment of danger for Everton, Jagielka cleared a Tom Cleverley shot off the line.

Overall, United deserved what they got while Everton will head into next week’s game at Aston Villa with something to build on. As for Van Persie, this is not what the all the fuss was supposed to be about.