“Nil Satis Nisi Optimum,” demands the motto on Everton’s jersey. “Nothing but the best is good enough.”
After Saturday’s false start in the Premier League, David Moyes’ players went some way towards meeting their own high standards by dashing Sheffield United’s Carling Cup dreams last night.
The visitors arrived on Merseyside unbeaten since the start of the season but departed with only their pride intact as a powerful display, inspired by Ross Barkley and Mikel Arteta, ensured it was the hosts who will enter the third round draw.
United predictably spent long periods on the back foot.
But while the scalp their manager Danny Wilson craved proved elusive, the combative shift he had also demanded did not.
Indeed, Arteta and his precociously talented teenage team mate had to showcase their full repertoire of skills to secure Everton’s victory after Richard Cresswell had handed United a surprise lead.
Barkley, the latest graduate from Goodison Park’s school of science, embellished his burgeoning reputation by providing the cross which allowed Victor Anichebe to restore Everton’s poise after a fortuitous equaliser before creating Everton’s decisive third with driving run from deep.
Fittingly it was Arteta who applied the final touch to an incisive move, caressing the ball beyond a despairing Steve Simonsen.
Beaten by Queens Park Rangers on the opening weekend of their campaign and shocked by chairman Bill Kenwright’s stark assessment of the financial situation behind the scenes, Evertonians descended upon the stadium drowning in despair and disillusionment.
But while their balance sheet makes for troubling reading, it can not disguise the fact that Moyes’ men are still among the most consistent performers in the top-flight having finished no lower than eighth in the past five years.
United, though, ensured they had to work hard for their victory.
Cresswell’s fourth goal of what promises to be a profitable campaign briefly threatened an upset while Stephen Quinn bristled with industry, aggression and intelligence.
But Everton’s ruthlessness and quality in advanced positions gradually punctured their stubborn resistance.
Despite many of their rivals treating it with disdain, both Everton and United pledged beforehand they would afford this competition the respect it deserves as Moyes chases the silverware which has proven so elusive during his nine year reign and Wilson hoped to inject extra momentum into the visitors bid to drag themselves out of League One.
Fifteen of those who started their respective club’s previous contests featured in the first choice elevens here.
Moyes, who reached the semi-finals in 2008, used his programme notes to admit he was still smarting from last term’s humbling at the hands of Brentford and deployed the likes of Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini in an effort to avoid another humiliating defeat.
His only concession to sentiment was to hand Phil Jagielka, who progressed through the ranks at Bramall Lane, the captain’s armband.
United began the contest in confident fashion with Matthew Harriott, replacing the ill Nick Montgomery in midfield, snapping at the heels of his markers and Stephen Quinn full of flicks and tricks in the ‘hole.’
Nevertheless, Everton created numerous openings during the early exchanges with Fellaini testing Simonsen from 25 yards almost straight from kick-off.
The United goalkeeper, who made 30 league appearances for them earlier in his career, watched another effort, this time from Barkley, scuttle wide as his former club began to wrestle control.
Lecsinel Jean-Francois intervened to prevent Arteta trying his luck from point blank range before being cautioned for hauling back the Spaniard.
Moyes’ frustration at recent events was plain for all to see.
While Wilson, arms folded and shoulders hunched, barked-out the occasional order from the touchline, the Scot berated all and sundry whenever possession was conceded.
His mood was not improved when Cresswell ghosted in between Jagielka and Baines to prod home Quinn’s 29th minute centre.
But United’s joy was short-lived when the striker inadvertently turned the ball into his own net less than two minutes later when Simonsen diverted Jack Rodwell’s cross onto his shins.
That was the cue for Everton to move through the gears with Anichebe edging them in front and Arteta capping a fine flowing move with an equally impressive finish.
Simonsen reacted well to smother Leon Osman’s deflected shot just before the hour before Anichebe dispatched a speculative volley into the crowd.
With United finding it increasingly difficult to make headway, Maguire was forced to throw his body in the way of another Fellaini effort but substitute Daniel Bogdanovic announced his entrance by stemming the tide with an audacious attempt which flew just over Jan Mucha’s crossbar.
Osman struck the woodwork from distance but Harry Maguire nearly had the last word when his effort was touched behind for a corner.
everton: Mucha, Hibbert, Baines, Heitinga, Jagielka, Arteta, Barkley (Baxter 77), Osman (Neville 77), Fellaini, Rodwell (Saha 65), Anichebe. Not used: Howard, Distin, Vellios, Wallace.
UNITED: Simonsen, Lowton, Maguire, Collins, Jean-Francois, Flynn (Porter 56), Doyle, Williamson, Harriott (McAllister 74), Quinn, Cresswell (Bogdanovic 60). Not used: Long, Mendez-Laing, Slew, Tonne.
REFEREE: N Miller (County Durham).
GOALS: Cresswell (29), Cresswell OG (31), Anichebe (37), Arteta (43).
BOOKINGS: Jean-Francois (18), Flynn (32), Arteta (40), Fellaini (79).
RED CARDS: None.