After Manchester United stuck nine unanswered goals past Southampton at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, Carlo Ancelotti said he hoped they had used up their full quota before they met his Everton team. His hopes were in vain but it did not mean he and his team were damned. Because if United had not forgotten how to score goals, they had forgotten how not to concede them.
United scored three more on Saturday night to go with the hatful they hammered past the Saints but they threw victory away twice, allowing Everton to score two goals in the space of three minutes early in the second half to level the scores once and then conceding a last-gasp equaliser to Dominic Calvert-Lewin deep into added time at the end of the match.
The 3-3 draw meant that United failed to keep the pressure on Manchester City at the top of the table as Pep Guardiola’s side prepare for their showdown with Liverpool on Sunday afternoon. This draw was definitely two points lost for United, not a point gained. It means City are two points clear at the top with two games in hand. The momentum, once again, has been sucked from United’s sails.
Some of the blame for their failure to close out victory against Ancelotti and his team has to be levelled at David de Gea, who should have done better with both Everton’s first and third goals.
There was a time when De Gea was regularly his team’s saviour and best player. That time has gone. His place, surely, must be under serious threat from Dean Henderson.
It was a bitter end to an emotionally charged day for United on the 63rd anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster.
When Scott McTominay put United 3-2 up with a header in front of the Stretford End where a banner was draped across the empty seats showing a picture of the Busby Babes and the words We’ll Never Die, it had seemed like a fitting tribute. But then the script changed.
United failed to clear a Lucas Digne free kick in the fifth and final minute of added time and when it squirted through to Calvert-Lewin, he prodded it past De Gea, whose challenge was tentative and ineffectual. United were architects of their own downfall but Everton deserve plenty of credit for their tenacity and perseverance, too. The draw moved them into sixth place. It does not flatter them.
United’s preparations for the match had been disrupted by an alert at the Lowry Hotel, the residence of Jose Mourinho when he was the club’s manager, and their chosen pre-match venue.
Soon after they arrived around lunchtime, the fire services were alerted to an issue in the hotel kitchen and arrived in force but the hotel was not evacuated and the problem was diagnosed as a false alarm.
The thrashing of Southampton, a result that equalled the Premier League record, had been quite a way for United to accelerate back into form after hiccups against Sheffield United and Arsenal and Solskjaer only made one change from the side that had routed Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team, replacing Fred with Paul Pogba.
The sides held a minute’s silence, and wore black armbands, to pay tribute on the 63rd anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster
The game had started while replays of Tomas Soucek’s late sending off at Craven Cottage were still playing on screens around Old Trafford. It was an absurd decision by referee Mike Dean but as United and Everton engaged in their early skirmishes, Bruno Fernandes screamed in pain when he was tackled innocuously by Tom Davies.
United started the second half strongly and Luke Shaw forced a diving save from Olsen after he played a slick one-two with Cavani but four minutes after the break, Everton were back in the game. Davies broke strongly from midfield and played a ball inside Harry Maguire for Calvert-Lewin to run on to.
Calvert-Lewin was forced wide and could only poke a cross-shot at De Gea. De Gea should have caught it but he pushed it out weakly and straight into the path of Abdoulaye Doucoure, who prodded it over the line.
United were stunned. So stunned that they conceded another goal almost immediately. Their defending was partly to blame again. They failed to clear a cross from the left and then allowed the ball to be played to James Rodriguez 12 yards out. James has one of the sweetest left feet in the game and he used it to good effect. He brought the ball down and, flawless technique, hammered it low past De Gea into the corner of the net.
Rashford should have restored United’s lead after an hour but his attempted dink over the goalkeeper was blocked. It took ten more minutes, and the substitution of James, for them to seize the advantage again and this time it was the Everton defence at fault.
Shaw curled a free kick from the left touchline into the heart of the box with intent and pace but the Everton defenders allowed McTominay to rise above them and flick it goalwards. It was not a powerful header and Olsen should have saved it but the goalkeeper seemed to mistime his dive and allowed the ball to evade his grasp. He and his team were reprieved by Calvert-Lewin’s last-gasp equaliser.