By PHIL THOMAS
YOU have to hand it to Everton — they certainly know how to tear up a script.
And when it comes to doing so against Manchester United, no one does it better than giant Belgian Marouane Fellaini.
He had a field day in April as Everton snatched two dramatic late goals at Old Trafford and ultimately ensured the title went across town to Manchester City.
Last night the story was once again set up for a United party — this time to hail the £22million bow of Robin van Persie.
Once again the Toffees pooped the party, as the story of Robin turned into one about Marouane instead. Marouane Fellaini to be exact.
Four months ago he gave United the runaround as Everton left with a sensational 4-4 draw.
This time he did exactly the same, to send Van Persie’s new team-mates crashing to their first opening-game defeat in eight years.
And the only unjust thing about this result, make no mistake, was the fact it should have been by more.
That is how dominant Everton were. At 6ft 4in — plus his massive hair on top — it is pretty hard for Fellaini NOT to stand head and shoulders above everybody else.
Last night he certainly managed it against Michael Carrick.
Although quite why United’s makeshift centre-back was the one left to pick up Fellaini from Darron Gibson’s 57th-minute corner is anyone’s guess.
Carrick was switched back into the heart of the United defence because of the injury absence of Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling.
Yet why skipper and hard-as-nails Serb stopper Nemanja Vidic was not given the job of dealing with Fellaini was as baffling as Danny Welbeck’s decision to leave the near post when the Everton star’s header came in.
Fellaini said: “It was a good goal and a good corner and it was good for me and Everton.
“We had a lot of chances in the first half. I told them to keep going and hoped the team would score. Everybody was motivated, Manchester United are a great club, everybody played well.”
United were starting a season without a trophy to defend for the first time since 2005 — but, in truth, Everton could have been out of sight even before the break.
In fact if had not been for the heroics of David De Gea, they probably would have been as the Spanish keeper pulled off FOUR outstanding saves.
Steven Pienaar will have been sick of the sight of him by the interval after the South African was denied twice while Leon Osman and Leighton Baines had every reason to curse him, too.
And all that after Fellaini had left him flat out on his own goal-line as he cleared his lines from another inswinging Baines corner.
The Goodison tower block clearly caught De Gea as he leapt with his left arm outstretched, even though there was little malicious intent.
Even so, Fellaini’s contact was enough to leave De Gea prone and Alex Ferguson fuming on the touchline.
Although, in truth, Fergie should have been raging at his own side’s ineptitude rather than anything else.
But if it was supposed to be the softening up before the storm, Everton had clearly not banked on the Spaniard having toughened up dramatically since his hairy moments last term.
First he reacted well to push a Pienaar header from the edge of the box over the top.
And he did even better when the same man curled a low effort which Fellaini’s presence meant he only saw late on.
Another smart reaction stop pushed Osman’s thunderbolt over the bar — once again after Fellaini had given the United backline kittens.
But it was his save right on half-time which really took the breath away, denying Baines a goal against the club he has been linked with all summer.
Unfortunately, his heroics at one end could not inspire a similar story at the other, as United at times gave a masterclass in short passes and keeping possession — and another in producing absolutely nothing at the end of it.
It took the best part of half an hour before Tim Howard was called on for anything approaching a serious save and even then Wayne Rooney’s 20-yard free-kick was curling just wide before the keeper’s fingertips made sure.
The fact Everton’s only other worrying moment in their own area came when Welbeck went tumbling says everything about their awesome display — as well as that of the visitors’.
And if Osman had kept a cooler head when thundering another Fellaini knock-down against the bar, it would have been purely academic by the time Van Persie finally came off the bench.
The Dutchman finally appeared for the final 22 minutes — a minute after the hugely impressive Phil Jagielka had cleared a Tom Cleverley shot off the line.
Mind you, it was hard to find a man in blue who was not impressive.
About as difficult as finding one in red who was.
STAR MAN – MAROUANE FELLAINI (Everton)
EVERTON: Howard 7, Hibbert 7, Jagielka 8, Distin 7, Baines 8, Osman 7, Neville 7, Gibson 7, Pienaar 7, Fellaini 9, Jelavic 7. Subs: Coleman (Osman 80) 6, Naismith (Jelavic 89) 5, Heitinga (Fellaini 90) 5. Not used: Mucha, Gueye, Barkley, Anichebe. Booked: Gibson.
MAN UNITED: De Gea 7, Valencia 6, Vidic 5, Carrick 6, Evra 5, Cleverley 6, Scholes 6, Nani 5, Kagawa 7, Rooney 6, Welbeck 6. Subs: Van Persie (Welbeck 68) 6, Young (Nani 78) 6, Anderson (Cleverley 85) 5. Not used: Lindegaard, Rafael, Berbatov, Wootton. Booked: Nani, Scholes.