Belfast Telegraph

Everton duo's disagreement shows "passion", says Ronald Koeman

Ashley Williams and Romelu Lukaku's on-pitch row at Old Trafford in midweek actually encouraged Everton boss Ronald Koeman because the Dutchman feels his team are "too nice".

During the second half of the Toffees' 1-1 draw with Manchester United, defender Williams was seen berating Lukaku after clearing the ball, with the Belgian responding in an equally animated manner while raising his finger to his mouth.

That apparent 'shush' gesture from Lukaku was criticised for demonstrating a "lack of respect" by television pundit Martin Keown at the time, yet Koeman insists that rather than pointing to some dressing-room discord, the argument instead showed his players are willing to fight for the cause.

"What I like to see is passion and they need to understand we need to support each other, but finally I saw a reaction because in this case I think we are too nice together," the Dutchman said.

"You have to ask, you have to talk and maybe sometimes you need to shout. I don't have any problem with that because it's also an emotional part.

"The two boys spoke already to each other and there's no problem. I like this because you need to do everything to win the game and after you can be friends, but not on the pitch."

It was Williams' handball in the area late on that gave United the penalty which Zlatan Ibrahimovic converted, denying seventh-placed Everton three points which would have moved them above United in the table.

Koeman's team have virtually guaranteed themselves a top-seven finish as they now have a seven-point cushion over West Brom, and he believes that alone should be deemed a success in his first season at the helm.

The Everton boss also expects his team will be in the mix to displace Arsenal and United, in fifth and sixth respectively, should they win their next two home fixtures against Leicester and Burnley.

Koeman insists it is that pursuit of European qualification that should be considered by those who have been negative about his team following the derby loss to Liverpool last weekend.

"We are fighting for European football, maybe that is something to realise for everybody," he claimed.

"If you finish seventh, it's a really successful season. If we get more out of that, then it's fantastic.

"I expect if we get six points out of the next two home games with Leicester and Burnley that we will fight for the fifth and sixth places."

Everton will be without the suspended Williams against the in-form Foxes at Goodison Park on Sunday after he was dismissed when conceding that penalty to United, while Morgan Schneiderlin's calf problem will be assessed on Saturday.

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