|Photo from ManUtd.com|
This game, and the past couple of weeks as a matter of fact, fittingly sum up the majority of the decade for Manchester United. The Reds have found themselves making one step forward only to make two steps back quite often in the post-Ferguson era, and the 1-1 stalemate against Everton on Sunday at Old Trafford was yet another instance of that standstill.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men came into this game against the struggling Toffees full of confidence, or at least you would think they did, having just put together an impressive streak of three wins in a row.
Taking down Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City in quick succession followed by a comfortable rout of AZ Alkmaar should have had the players raring to go on Sunday in search of another momentum building block in the Premier League, but what we saw out there was far from a team inspired by their recent rise.
United were back to their old, inconsistent ways against a team that is technically considered as weaker opposition, certainly this season anyway. For some reason, in those games, United just seem like they feel that a win will find them. The desire to win midfield duels, second balls, and to press just vanishes. Players begin to walk around, move the ball at a pedestrian pace, and look almost entitled to a victory.
This is even more surprising considering the club’s success, or the lack of it, following Sir Alex’s departure. United have not been a trophy-winning machine by any means. They have been consistently struggling to make the Top 4 and three managers have already been axed as a result. And yet, it feels like United consistently manage to find themselves with a crop of players who think that they are better than they actually are.
With the constant development and progression of team’s in the Premier League — largely due to their exponential financial capabilities — no games are easy anymore. You can’t just expect to show up and get the three points. And especially if you are Manchester United. No matter how badly this football club may struggle, facing them will always be a cup final to every team in the league.
Unfortunately, it seems like some players don’t quite realise that just yet, but it seems like it is something that Solskjaer is adamantly working on. To educate these players on the magnitude of this football club. To make them realise that you have to turn up and outwork every team week in week out. You can’t only turn up for the “big” games. There are a maximum of 10 of those in a league calendar. The other 28 are just as important.
But United are certainly not quite there yet, and they were extremely lacklustre and toothless against Everton. There were no sparks going forward until the late second half introduction of Mason Greenwood who was able to rescue a point for United and continue his rise to stardom.
Greenwood showed the kind of individual cutting edge that is needed in games where opposition teams want to play a low block. United lack massively in that department, particularly in the absence of Paul Pogba, and Greenwood’s wonder strike has certainly put him in contention to start next week at Watford, where United are likely to be challenged with a similar defensive wall to break down.
David de Gea: 6.5/10
Despite probably being fouled for Everton’s goal and VAR failing to do its job yet again this season, the Spaniard could have probably been a little more authoritative commanding his area during the set-piece but otherwise.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: 8/10
The right-back has probably been United’s player of the season so far. His tackling is absolutely exceptional. He simply does not lose 1v1 duels. Another stellar defensive display but unfortunately not quite good enough down the other end with his deliveries.
Victor Lindelof: 6.5/10
Caught flat footed during Everton’s goal, although it would be harsh to blame him for it thoroughly, he should be more aware for deflections and bounces in his own box during set-pieces.
Harry Maguire: 7/10
Can’t really fault him too much for anything he did defensively as Everton didn’t cause United many problems other than the goal, but Maguire’s ball distribution was letting him down massively yesterday. United’s captain was touted as one of the best ball playing center backs in the world upon his arrival in the summer, but we have not really seen him step up and add an extra body into the midfield much this season as of yet.
Luke Shaw: 6.5/10
Dire. He has been very suspect defensively since returning from injury, while also not offering a whole lot in the final third either. Not sure what he offers that Brandon Williams doesn’t at the moment.
Scott McTominay: 7/10
Not the greatest of games for the Scot, but he has been very consistent all season, and you are allowed to have a bad game every once in a while. He didn’t make any mistakes per say but he just didn’t look as sharp as he has been as of late.
The Brazilian spark plug to United’s midfield has been looking good recently, and this was another one of his solid performances. He fought well in the middle and tried breaking into the opposition half to help out, but his shot selection and decision making in the final third let him down a bit yesterday.
Daniel James: 7/10
Another solid, energetic display overall for United’s right winger. He stuck to his touchline and caused the Everton left back’s problems throughout the game with his pace, but he couldn’t quite find the delivery. Saying that, he did register an assist for Mason Greenwood’s goal.
Jesse Lingard: 6.5/10
That was poor from Jesse on the back of two solid outings against Spurs and City. This just wasn’t the game for him. He is a big game player. He thrives when he has space to run into and charging attackers in front of him. Low blocks are his kryptonite.
Marcus Rashford: 6.5/10
Similarly to McTominay, Marcus just had an off game yesterday. Things weren’t clicking for him in the final third despite troubling Pickford on a few occasions. He could never really find enough space to operate on either flank. But again, bad games happen to everyone every now and again.
Anthony Martial: 7/10
Probably United’s brightest spark going forward over the span of the whole game. The Frenchman was trying to be adventurous and move around into spaces to find the action, but he wasn’t able to get any clear cut opportunities in front of goal.
Mason Greenwood: 8.5/10
Wonderkid. It’s as simple as that. The 18-year-old has an absolute wand of a left foot and has shown yet again that he can be relied upon in the Premier League right now. A fantastic strike to equalise for United from outside of the box following a move which was initiated by him moments earlier. You often need individual moments of brilliance to win you games against teams that are happy to just defend, and Greenwood has that kind of cutting edge oozing from him.
Juan Mata: 6/10
It was a reasonable move with five minutes to go to bring on Juan Mata who is technical and can pick out a pass, but the amicable Spaniard probably did more damage to United’s hopes of a winner than he helped them. He didn’t find his feet in the game at all and seemed to give the ball away with every one of his few touches.