South African midfielder is in top form as Everton are the only team in the league with one loss, writes Andy Mitten.
Everton’s Pienaar has no fear at Old Trafford thanks to Moyes
Everton’s title wrecker returns to Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
Steven Pienaar was outstanding in April 2012 when the Merseyside club visited Manchester United.
A creator, distributor and, crucially, a goal scorer, Everton came from 4-2 down to draw 4-4 with United three games from the end of the season.
The United defender Rio Ferdinand thinks the result cost them the championship that season as defeat to Manchester City a week later allowed their city rivals to leapfrog them and take the title.
“I don’t know what happened,” Ferdinand said. “We had a two-goal lead. Maybe we got carried away with the crowd urging us to go forward all the time.
“Maybe the moment got to us. I still shake my head when I think of that game.”
Pienaar, the 31 year-old South African, takes a different view.
“That result didn’t help United, but you can’t say it cost the league,” he said. “United played City a week later. If they’d not lost that one then they’d have won the league.” And if they had not drawn with David Moyes’ Everton they would also have won the league.
Pienaar returns to face his former boss tonight and is relishing the occasion.
“Moyes always told us never to be afraid at Old Trafford, to believe in ourselves and give United a game. We did that several times, even if we lost,” said Pienaar, who believes new manager Roberto Martinez will have the same mentality.
Everton are largely unchanged from the team Moyes left in the close season.
Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Stoke City was the latest in an excellent run which sees them in fifth place, three places above United and level on points with neighbours Liverpool.
Everton have been defeated only once – by Manchester City – in 13 matches, a record no other team can match.
Tonight’s visit to Old Trafford is followed by Sunday’s trip to league leaders Arsenal. Martinez thinks the two results will help decide if Everton have enough to finish in the top four and reach the Uefa Champions League.
The Spanish manager has impressed everyone at Goodison Park. “We didn’t expect it to go so well,” said Pienaar.
“We had a new manager and we had to gel with him. He had his own tactics and ideas, his own people. It takes time to adjust, but the players here are open-minded and we’re doing well.
“We lost one of our first thirteen games. All the big clubs had more defeats than us. We’re satisfied.”
Pienaar praises Moyes for the role he played in his career.
“He’s had a big influence on me,” he said. “He brought me to England from Dortmund, he believed in me.
“He did the same when he brought me back from Tottenham after I’d been injured and hadn’t played many games.
“I always listened carefully to what he had to say because he wanted the best for me. He’s an honest man who puts so much into his work that you feel like you’re letting him down if you don’t.
“It will be nice to see David and the other coaches who left for United, plus Marouane [Fellaini], but only after the match. We have a job to do first.”
A job they have done before and hope to do again.
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