Manchester United conceded in the fifth minute of stoppage time at the end of Saturday’s Premier League encounter with Everton, dropping a costly two points in an entertaining 3-3 draw. Goals from Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes gave the Reds a comfortable halftime advantage, though they were pegged back by a quickfire Everton double shortly after the interval. Scott McTominay thought he’d won the game midway through the second half, only for Dominic Calvert-Lewin to level things up with the last kick of the game.
Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti is a wily old tactician, and for the game’s first quarter, his gameplan appeared to be working perfectly. Everton’s narrow, diamond midfield denied United’s attackers space in the final third, and the hosts barely had a sniff of goal. At the other end, Richarlison and Lucas Digne caused problems down United’s right, even if they lacked the decisive final ball.
As the first half wore on, however, United started to find ways to unlock Everton’s deep defence. A floated cross from Mason Greenwood was just too high for Cavani, and the ball floated over the top of the bar.
It was from an almost identical position a few minutes later that Marcus Rashford delivered a beautiful whipped cross to the far post, where Cavani had slipped in behind Michael Keane. The Uruguayan made no mistake from point-blank range, glancing Rashford’s ball past Robin Olsen to give the Reds the lead.
The goal gave United confidence, and the hosts soon moved the ball with greater purpose. Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s thrusting runs stretched Everton’s narrow midfield, creating gaps in which United’s attackers could cause problems. Shortly before the break, Bruno Fernandes doubled United’s lead, curling a wonderful, dipping effort into the top corner of Olsen’s goal from the edge of the area.
Everton might have pulled one back on the stroke of halftime, though Dominic Calvert-Lewin fired wide after receiving a long ball over the top of United’s defence. It was an almost perfect first half for United, marred only by a muscle injury sustained by Paul Pogba, who limped off to be replaced by Fred.
Any hopes that United would have a simple second half were scotched within four minutes of the restart, when Everton mounted a swift comeback. Calvert-Lewin was slipped goal-side of Harry Maguire, and David de Gea weakly pushed his prod into the path of the onrushing Abdoulaye Doucouré. It was a simple finish for the Frenchman, who rolled under de Gea to slash the Toffees’ deficit.
Just three minutes later, the comeback was complete. With United’s defence having miserably failed to clear their lines, Doucouré fizzed a low cross into James Rodríguez on the edge of the box. His first touch masterfully cushioned the powerful pass; the second buried it inside de Gea’s near post. It was a touch of brilliance from the Colombian, but another moment of humiliation for United’s hapless defence.
United looked ropey at the back, but still dangerous in attack. Just past the hour, Cavani flicked the ball into Rashford in the Everton box, though he was denied by Olsen at the near post. Everton were still impressively compact in midfield, and United’s attackers had to work hard to find any room for manoeuvre.
When United did take the lead with just over 20 minutes left, it was as much thanks to catastrophic goalkeeping as anything else. A Shaw free-kick was flicked goalwards by McTominay, and should’ve been a routine save for Olsen. However, the Swedish shot-stopper slipped as he scrambled to push the ball to safety, and hit the deck as the ball floated into the empty net.
United looked like they’d be able to see the game out, until disaster struck in the fifth minute of stoppage time. A deep Everton free-kick was lumped into the United box, where Keane flicked the ball into the path of Calvert-Lewin. In behind the Reds’ defence, the England international finished calmly, though questions will be asked of de Gea, who appeared slow off his line.
It is a result that further hands the initiative to Manchester City, who remain two points clear of United with two games in hand. We have to hope Liverpool do us a favour at Anfield tomorrow, when they play host to Pep Guardiola’s table-toppers.