Take yourself back to Saturday night, somewhere around 7 o’clock. You’ve just been given the Everton team news As kick off at Old Trafford approaching.
How are you feeling?
Nervous? Dreading it? Confident?
It felt different to years gone by, didn’t it?
It felt a bit different to the crippling anxiety and dread pulsating through your veins that you’ve probably felt half a dozen times a season for most of the last 3 decades.
Even a hint of a slightly different feeling you felt is very important. And you were right to feel it.
I don’t think Everton deserved anything from that game against Manchester United. But I felt vindicated in the feeling I had pre-match that this wasn’t going to be the white flag job of years gone by.
Mental fragility, inferiority complex – call it what you will, but visiting the elite in the Premier League doesn’t have anywhere near the bewildering stench it used to under Carlo Ancelotti.
The proof of that is in how the 14 players that took to the field felt a defeat wasn’t good a reflection of what they can do, rather than what they did do throughout the course of the game.
Everton haven’t had that belief in themselves for a long time.
They put a stagnant narrative to one side, even the one that enveloped the game in which they didn’t perform well in.
They demanded more of themselves. They battled, they tried and they didn’t dwell on what they once thought couldn’t happen.
I tweeted at 2-0 down that the team stood at a cross roads. The dilemma was playing out a feeble damage limitation game, or actually have a go at getting back into this.
How many times over the years would they have chosen the former? Every time.
To me it felt there was a group of players that collectively felt they hadn’t done themselves justice or performed in a way that was an accurate reflection of a really good season to that point.
You need only listen to Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s post match interview with Sky:
“For me we’re capable of so much more. I feel every team we come up against we can compete, we can beat them.
“When we don’t lay a glove on early on and let teams get away from us it’s frustrating. I think the spirt and confidence we showed to get back into the game is what we’re all about and that’s what we need to show more of.”
I’m not one for platitudes or clichés footballers usually find very steady to come out with after the event, but you believe him here, don’t you?
Everton are still enshrouded by those things that have blighted attempts at progression for many years, there’s no doubting that – see performances against West Ham, Newcastle and Leeds for proof.
However, what can’t be argued is Carlo Ancelotti is vigorously chipping away at the conventions and modern traditions we’ve depressingly grown to understand as the status quo.
This is different.