Play to Van Persie's strengths, Ferguson urges Man United

Robin van Persie endured a debut defeat for Manchester United against Everton.
Robin van Persie endured a debut defeat for Manchester United against Everton. Photo: PA

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson wants to see his team play more to the strengths of new recruit Robin van Persie after the Dutchman's debut ended in defeat at Everton.

Belgium midfielder Marouane Fellaini was the outstanding player at Goodison Park and scored the only goal with a powerful header early in the second half.

Van Persie appeared as a second-half substitute and Ferguson rued the former Arsenal striker's new team-mates not involving him as much in the danger areas as he had wished.

"We were a wee bit disappointing in terms of finishing off the approach play we had," Ferguson said.

"We played around him (Van Persie) too much, we didn't show enough penetration."

Ferguson is waiting for good news on the defensive front after last night's 1-0 setback.

A back four featuring only two recognised defenders - Nemanja Vidic, who had not played since December, and Patrice Evra, whose future has been questioned over the summer - suffered at the hands of a rampant Fellaini.

But Ferguson did not believe a weakened backline had contributed significantly to United's first opening-fixture loss since 2008.

While it is unlikely the injured Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand will be available to face Fulham at Old Trafford this weekend, Ferguson hopes to see some progress.

"I don't think any will be fit for Sunday," he said.

"Hopefully Evans is getting near to be able to start. With a good week's training it will bring him on a bit and in a couple of weeks he will be okay."

Winger Antonio Valencia was deployed at right-back by Ferguson, while midfielder Michael Carrick was positioned alongside Vidic in the centre.

Fellaini caused United all kinds of problems and had it not been for the excellence of goalkeeper David de Gea the visitors would have been well behind by half-time.

Ferguson was more concerned by his team's lack of a cutting edge, especially when he introduced £24million striker Van Persie for the last 22 minutes.

Ferguson told MUTV: "With Robin in your team you know you want to use his ability against centre-backs in situations he is very good at - but we didn't use him enough.

"There were a couple of moments: I thought Danny Welbeck maybe was pushed (by Phil Jagielka in the first half) as he went in the box - that was a big moment.

"Tom Cleverley's shot was saved by Jagielka on the line in the second half.

"We had these kind of moments but I'm not criticising the team, they worked well and played some great football.

"It's difficult here, you have the crowd influencing the referee all the time and it makes it difficult for you."

Everton manager David Moyes celebrated his first opening-game win for five seasons but insisted that hardly meant they had succeeded in shrugging off their tag of being perennial slow-starters.

"We haven't started seasons well and even this result doesn't tell you you have started the season well," Moyes said. "Just as if we had lost we wouldn't say we had started the season badly.

"You probably judge it after 10 games how you've started the season.

"I've tried absolutely everything to try to get off to a good start so we tried something different this year.

"I am really pleased because they performed ever so well and got a great result."

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