After two outstanding results against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, Manchester United huffed and they puffed, but they were unable to defeat a patched up Everton side with the worst away record in the Premier League. United can beat the best but struggle against lesser sides.
A dramatic and engrossing game ended 1-1 to maintain Duncan Ferguson’s unbeaten record as Everton’s caretaker boss, while United made it 11 without defeat at home. It didn’t feel like an achievement from a side who have now drawn seven of their 17 Premier League games in 2019/20 – more than they have won or lost. United dropped to sixth, Everton stayed 16th though it was their players who were far more buoyant at the final whistle. Ferguson lapped up the songs from 3,000 happy travelling fans. Everton didn’t come to defend in a game which started brightly on a drizzly, dank Mancunian afternoon, with Jesse Lingard frustrated after turning the ball wide after only 14 seconds. It could have been 1-1 within two minutes as Everton showed attacking intent.
Marcus Rashford shot wide after nine minutes after running onto a ball from Fred and thirty seconds later, a similar defence splitting ball from Scott McTominay found Daniel James, who shot wide.
United have laboured to break down struggling teams and Everton, with one win from eight away games, hadn't much looked like the side that hammered United 4-0 in April, but they were rejuvenated last week under former striker and club legend Ferguson. They kept their positions and pressed well at Old Trafford – despite missing midfielders Morgan Schneiderlin and Gylfi Sigurdsson. Losing their best player, attacking full-back Lucas Digne, after 24 minutes to a groin injury hardly helped their cause.
His replacement, Leighton Baines, came on instructed to get tight on James. He had been on the pitch a minute to see Rashford zip a free kick over the wall but Jordan Pickford palmed it away after initially moving in the opposite direction.
And they went ahead after 36 minutes. Baines swung a corner in at the Stretford End which went over David de Gea, hit the thigh of Victor Lindelof and in. VAR decided that De Gea hadn’t been fouled by Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s arm in the buildup.
United were rocked, Everton buoyant as their fans sang "Duncan, Duncan Ferguson" at the man who had taken off his jacket to stand in the cold and rain.
United had responded well after half time in Thursday's Europa League win over AZ Alkmaar, but Rashford skied an effort over after 50 minutes to groans from the Stretford End. United pressured, Ferguson pressed his case for every decision to the linesman and urged the travelling fans to be louder. Luke Shaw saw a shot saved from the edge of his own area; James struck Lingard in the face with another effort. Lingard was replaced by midweek hero Mason Greenwood with 25 minutes to play. James shot tamely along the ground, Harry Maguire glanced a header towards goal from a corner and Lindelof shot over the bar. It was all United, though Aaron Wan Bissaka was needed to tackle the goal-bound Richarlison after an error by McTominay.
United got their equaliser after 77 minutes, Greenwood shooting past Pickford in the least predictable corner after James had swept the ball across the box to the 18-year-old striker. It was fitting on a day that United celebrated 4,000 consecutive games of using an academy graduate that one scored.
“You wanted the ball to drop to Mason, because he’s so calm and composed,” said United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “When he gets a chance he takes his chances. I think we put them under pressure and just ran out of time at the end. It’s just so natural for him. He just knows exactly what to do. If you open your legs, he shoots through you. If you close your legs he bends it round you. Too many chances are missed in general in football by strikers rushing their finishes. The best ones have that little extra half a second.”
Old Trafford roared with prima screams. Rashford hit a free kick on target. It was an open, end-to-end match in which both sides were desperate for points. Moise Keane was subbed after only 18 minutes and ignored by his manager as he trudged off; Wan Bissaka tackled; Alex Iwobi tested De Gea with a splendid shot after strong Everton play on the left while United’s final balls were poor from the right. Although United are unbeaten in their last 10 home games since an August defeat to Crystal Palace, only Everton will be satisfied with the result.