Carlo Ancelotti watched Everton draw 0-0 with Arsenal after the Italian’s appointment as the Club’s new manager was confirmed 70 minutes before kick-off on Saturday.
Caretaker Duncan Ferguson, then, signs off after claiming five points and remaining undefeated from a trio of nasty looking Premier League games against the heavyweights of Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal.
Everton traded primarily in half chances in Ferguson’s final match at the helm but were resolute and tenacious and never looked like losing – albeit Jordan Pickford saved brilliantly from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang soon after half-time.
Cenk Tosun had Everton’s first attempt on 12 minutes, the striker involved 60 seconds after replacing a stricken Alex Iwobi but firing high from 20 yards.
Both sides were struggling to piece together any meaningful passing sequences in this opening phase, however.
Indeed, Everton reserved their most fluent move of the first half for right before the interval.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin collected possession in midfield and instinctively cast a glance to the right touchline.
With no sign of Djibril Sidibe, Calvert-Lewin shifted possession to Fabian Delph. He found Yerry Mina, who ushered in Sidibe. The Frenchman fed Tom Davies but the midfielder’s cross from the right of the penalty area was far too hot for Tosun to handle.
Sidibe’s energy on Everton’s right belied the fact he’d just missed two games with illness.
The Frenchman passed to Richarlison for a clever ball round the corner to Calvert-Lewin whose cross was deflected behind.
Much later on in the first half Sidibe overpowered Gabriel Martinelli to burst forward but cross behind Bernd Leno’s goal.
That episode mirrored a lot of Everton’s early play, the hosts consistently manufacturing promising positions out wide but failing to capitalise – Tosun and Digne, for example, fired croses into Leno’s gloves in quick succession later in the half.
When Delph delivered from deep on 17 minutes the ball reached Richarlison at the back post.
The Brazilian took aim but was thwarted by Bukayo Saka’s block.
David Luiz stepped across compatriot Richarlison to hand Everton a dead-ball opportunity to the left of goal soon after.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, another fit again after being under the weather, sent his strike hurrying past Leno’s right post with the alarmed Arsenal keeper scurrying across his goalline.
Arsenal’s threat was more often than not coming through the middle – save for Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s teasing 13th-minute delivery from the right which curiously had no takers.
Lucas Torreira flew into a tackle with Tom Davies after 45 minutes and got the rub of the green when the ball ricocheted forwards into Martinelli’s path.
He steadied himself but then pushed the fast-forward button and rushed a blasted effort past the near post.
Delph used all his knowhow to position himself expertly and intercept the fast-breaking Aubameyang’s pass aimed for Martinelli straight after the restart.
It was Everton who had the first attempt in the immediate aftermath of half-time – Richarlsion driving beyond the far post after being found by Digne’s squeezed pass – but Arsenal soon drawing a top save from Jordan Pickford.
Mina had to be spot on with the timing of his tackle as the impressive Reiss Nelson advanced into the box.
The Colombian got it right but at the cost of a corner, which was swung in by Nelson.
Calum Chambers’ headed flick travelled to Aubameyang at the far post and Pickford needed to summon tremendous reactions to shovel out a rising first-time strike.
Pickford could have chucked his hat on Aubameyang’s next effort, a pea roller from distance.
But the contest was growing in intensity, becoming a little fractious even.
Saka survived a VAR review after landing a high foot on Calvert-Lewin, while Emile Smith Rowe aimed an air kick in a bid to stop Sidibe countering.
Martinelli’s shuddering challenge on Sidibe soon after was fair.
Everton regained the initiative midway through the second half. A VAR review determined Torreira hadn’t handled Calvert-Lewin’s low strike following the Everton forward’s neat exchange with Davies.
Before the video bods could have a look at that incident, the ball flew right to Tosun, whose cross on the stretch thrashed into Chambers’ shins. The Arsenal defender had no control over where the ball was going and was relived to see it fly behind.
Ferguson made his final throw of the dice with 10 minutes remaining – Michael Keane already on to replace Delph – when he withdrew Tosun for Moise Kean.
It was Mason Holgate, though, in midfield since Delph’s withdrawal, who was upended on the left by Chambers with five minutes remaining.
A position of promise came to nothing, on that occasion.
The same most certainly is not true of Ferguson’s time in charge, which got off to a flyer when Richarlison scored after five minutes against Chelsea and developed into a significant period in this campaign.
Incoming manager Carlo Ancelotti’s metaphorical first steps inside Goodison Park will feel very solid underfoot.
For the Italian’s ability to feel sure in his stride, Duncan Ferguson deserves an awful lot of credit.
This was a four-game reign which will be remembered in epochal terms.
Asked for the highlight of his spell in charge Ferguson cited a renewed bond between the Club and its supporters.
Evertonians have not so much bought into Ferguson’s team as jumped in lock, stock and barrel.
A performance full of vitality and, strikingly following a poor run of results, conviction and confidence, did for Chelsea at a cacophonous Goodison Park in Ferguson’s first game.
Doing it with nigh-on 40,000 people giving you a push and the mysterious ‘new manager phenomenon’ on your side was one thing.
Could Ferguson do it with a depleted team at Manchester United? You bet.
Everton looked like winning that match for a long period and when they were hit by an equaliser had the nous and courage to ensure they didn’t lose it.
Standing up for yourself on United’s Old Trafford turf generates the sort of belief which feeds into comebacks of the type Everton staged to draw with Leicester City in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup tie.
The Blues ultimately saw their cup aspirations extinguished on penalties but that hurtful outcome did nothing to damage the mentality created by Ferguson this past fortnight.
Everton’s football was understandably bitty at times following two turbo-charge fixtures in the previous six days - but it never wanted for purpose or direction.
If a cross went astray, heads didn’t drop, there was no hiding, just a desire to get back on the ball and have another go.
Everton tackled, fought, ran and retained their focus, the things Ferguson classes as non-negotiable but which can actually take you a long way.
Certainly, they were responsible for Everton shutting out Arsenal, with a nod to Jordan Pickford for his fabulous stop from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Ferguson walked off the pitch to a wonderful ovation following the final whistle, his name sung to the rafters in appreciation of a job very well done.
Fab To Have Delph Back
If this was an important 72 minutes for Fabian Delph then the same could be said for his team.
Everton were clear about the motivations for recruiting the experienced Delph this summer.
The 30-year-old’s selflessness, intelligence and knowhow, they reasoned, would all count as valuable additions to Everton’s midfield.
Delph has had scant opportunity to bring his qualities to bear on Everton’s team due to injuries.
But on his seventh Premier League start of the season – and first since the home game against Tottenham Hotspur seven weeks ago – he showed everything Everton knew they were getting when they signed Delph from Manchester City.
Delph rarely catches the eye and his standout contribution here wasn’t one for the cameras.
When Arsenal broke in numbers directly after half-time, though, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tried to slide in Gabriel Martienlli, Delph had dropped into the perfect position to intervene.
Without the England international's awareness, Martinelli would have had a free hit at goal.
Delph gained possession for his side on eight occasions, made two interceptions and completed 32 of 36 passes – 88.9 per cent.
This was an impressive and timely return.