Everton 1 Manchester United 1
Marouane Fellaini, so often the symbol of all that went wrong for Manchester United under David Moyes, created more problems for the club’s current manager with a clumsy late tackle that gifted Everton a point.
The Belgian had been on the field for just two minutes when he unnecessarily lunged and tripped Idrissa Gueye, presenting Leighton Baines with the opportunity to strike an unstoppable 88th-minute penalty past David de Gea.
Everton were full value for the point based on their late rally but the game was further evidence that any progress United have made under Jose Mourinho is, at best, marginal and certainly yet to be seen on a consistent basis.
“It was another game with a very good performance in a very difficult place to play,” said Mourinho.
“A very emotional stadium against a team with very good players.
“We are playing very well at home, being super dominant. We are playing very well away, controlling matches and performing really well with some amazing performance but not getting the results we deserve.”
Mourinho’s testy mood was not helped by the fact he faced questions over his decision to bring on Fellaini, in an attempt to add height and clout to his increasingly stressed defence, which backfired so badly.
“I thought you would know more about football than you do,” said Mourinho, sarcastically.
“It is obvious. Everton is not a passing team. They play direct. Everything is direct. When a team is losing it plays direct, when you have a player on the bench with two metres (height) you play that player in front of the defensive line to win the match.”
Still, since September 24, United have won just one league game and, while Mourinho has undoubtedly made United harder to beat, a flurry of home draws has removed any prospect of a title challenge and made a top four challenge increasingly unlikely.
“It’s happened too many times, we’ve dropped too many points,” said United defender Phil Jones. “That’s four or five games I can think of where we have completely dominated and didn’t win. It’s happened again.”
Jones’ analysis was slightly jaundiced because United’s domination was not complete, although they were by far the better side for the opening 70 minutes.
Yet, as has repeatedly been the case of late, United only had one goal to show for that superiority as Zlatan Ibrahimovic produced the one moment of quality in a disappointing first half. Although the goal was as much a result of a mistake by goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.
The Everton man rushed out of his area, for no obvious reason, to try and beat Ibrahimovic to a hopeful through ball by Anthony Martial and Ibrahimovic, a former teammate of Stekelenburg with Ajax, cleverly lobbed the ball over the keeper and towards the open goal, the ball bouncing against the crossbar and the right-hand post before referee Michael Oliver judged it had crossed the line with the aid of goalline technology.
United could have added to that lead in the second half and Mourinho resumed his complaints about the media coverage he has been receiving.
“You have to make a decision because when my teams are playing pragmatic football and winning matches and winning titles, you say it is not right and nice,” added Mourinho.
“When my teams play very very well, there is a huge change in relation to the past two or three years. Now you say what matters no matter is to get result, no matter what.
“At the moment teams are getting results, keeping the ball and playing on the counter-attack. You have to make a decision.”
The only other memorable moment of that first period involved United defender Marcos Rojo, who launched an appalling, flying two-footed challenge on Gueye that Oliver somehow decided was worth only a yellow card.
“It’s difficult,” said Everton manager Ronald Koeman.
“Maybe if the referee could watch it back, maybe it would be a red card. We always have discussions about red or yellow but it’s a fair result. Both teams didn’t deserve to lose.”
Everton, thanks to three substitutions made in quick succession around the hour mark, offered far more in a better second half.
De Gea’s outstretched leg denied Kevin Mirallas, Gueye’s shot from the edge of the area was parried, Gerard Deulofeu’s free-kick was glanced goalwards by Mason Holgate for another flying save and Enner Valencia shot straight at the keeper from close range.
In between, United might have wrapped up the contest as Michael Carrick crossed from the right and Ander Herrera’s first-time shot struck the Everton crossbar.
Even after the late equaliser, there was still time for drama as Baines might have clinched all three points with a powerful shot that was well stopped by the visiting keeper.
“We can fight back, we showed that today,” said Koeman. “It was disappointing to go 1-0 down but we didn’t deserve to lose the match.
“We showed that commitment and qualities and the three subs had a big impact on the game.”
EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Stekelenburg 6; Coleman 7 (Holgate 67, 7), Williams 7, Funes Mori 6, Baines 6; Barry 7, Gueye 9; Cleverley 5 (Deulofeu 65, 7), Mirallas 6, Bolasie 6 (Valencia 68, 6); Lukaku 6.
Subs: Robles, Jagielka, Barkley, McCarthy.
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): De Gea 6; Darmian 6, Jones 9, Rojo 7, Valencia 6; Herrera 6, Carrick 7; Mkhitaryan 7 (Fellaini 85), Pogba 8, Martial 7 (Rashford 82); Ibrahimovic 7.
Subs: Romero, Mata, Lingard, Blind, Bailly.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
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