Pundits and fans alike settled down to watch the contest in the hope of a repeat of last year's thriller, in which the Toffees pushed United all the way and eventually drew 4-4.
Cause for optimism was at its highest after recalling Everton's famous 1-0 victory over the Red Devils on the opening day of the season—the game in which Marouane Fellaini proved he is an elite talent.
Fellaini suited up at Old Trafford, but was promptly locked away.
Sir Alex Ferguson deployed Phil Jones in a man-marking role on the Belgian in an attempt to stifle his effect on the game.
For over half a season Everton have come to rely on their gargantuan midfielder to dominate individual battles, pull in the long balls and cause havoc in the box.
In the aforementioned reverse fixture, in which Fellaini battered Michael Carrick up and down the field in a complete mismatch, injuries prevented the Scot from gameplanning appropriately.
But this time he had the personnel. He dug out the very finest Pritt Stick and glued Jones to Fellaini's heels, instructing him to obstruct, spoil and damage his game in any way possible.
Fergie didn't manage to cut the supply line to Fellaini, but it's the restriction on his creativity levels that vindicated the idea.
No shots on target, no key passes, no chances created and no successful dribbles.
On the other hand, for Jones to complete five interceptions and two tackles before being subbed in the 56th minute is excellent. His replacement, Carrick, took up the reins and managed one interception himself.
Without Fellaini controlling proceedings, the Toffees looked a little bit lost.
As much as Leighton Baines, Steven Pienaar and Darron Gibson have been superb this season, it's clear who this side really rely on. But is it fair to brand them one-dimensional?
The mutterings surfaced very quickly after many spied what Fergie had done to control the Belgian, and Antonio Valencia's equally good job on Baines stopped him from putting in his usual 8-of-10 performance.
Despite recent results, Old Trafford is an awful place to go, and it's not usually the arena in which you gauge a team's strength unless they're challenging for the English Premier League title.
The Toffees didn't play well and United could have won 4-0, but they at least made one or two openings and again rued Johnny Heitinga's woeful defending for putting them in a hole early on.
But that prominent statistic stating Everton have only last three of their last X amount of games becomes four, and these rare losses occur when Fellaini isn't on song.
Is this a road bump on the way to the Toffee's slow rise that's easily solvable or indicative of what David Moyes' side would resemble should their Belgian be pried from them in the summer?
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