|Photo from Washington Post.|
It shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise at this point if you are a Manchester United fan and you hear that individual mistakes have cost them the three points. The latest case of that plague came back to haunt the Reds in their top four six pointer against Everton away at Goodison Park on Sunday. A game in which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men ended up hanging on to a 1-1 draw.
Once again, the Reds failed to pounce on the the team’s above them dropping points. With a win, United could have been within a point off fourth and six points off third place in the league. But despite a pretty good first half showing, the players and fans were left with a bitter taste in their mouths following the full time whistle. United got off to the worst start possible against the Toffees as an absolute howler from David De Gea gifted the hosts the lead inside the opening three minutes.
A rare lapse in concentration from the normally reliable Spaniard saw the Reds’ shot-stopper hang on to the ball in his box for a little too long before an attempted clearance was blocked by the soaring Dominic Calvert-Lewin, directing the ball into the empty net.
That’s the last thing you want in an environment as hostile as Goodison Park. The crowd was electric and whatever confidence United came into that game with was likely all gone. But credit where it’s due, Solskjaer’s men bounced right back. Nemanja Matic hit the crossbar down the other end moments later after a curled left-footed effort as United regained control of the driver seat. You kind of got the sense from that first half that there were multiple goals in it for United in this game and that Everton were there for the taking. The Reds successfully pegged the hosts back in their own half for the best parts of the opening frame, eventually resulting in an error of their own. A midfield misunderstanding from two Blues allowed Matic to regain possession inside the opposition half before rolling a perfectly weighted ball into the path of Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese magician only needed to look up once before unleashing a low driven 28-yard rocket at the flapping Jordan Pickford’s goal which nestled in the back of the net. Who else but Bruno? And just like that United were level and had all of the momentum. They failed to grab another one before half time, but you couldn’t help but feel like they would come out to finish the job after the interval. And well, that was far from the case.
Everton adjusted and totally disrupted the flow of United’s game, particularly through the channels in the final third. Fernandes was the only one who was able to get any sort of joy, beating his markers time and time again, allowing United to break out on occasional counter attacks. But Everton were dominating. It all of a sudden looked like they were the likelier to grab the winner. The hosts were piling on the pressure. They had 13 corners. But to be fair to United, they dealt with all the set pieces well for a change. Both team’s had two huge chances to snatch all the points in the dying moments of the game. What seemed like a beautifully scripted dream moment for Odion Ighalo was quickly turned into a nightmare as the Nigerian striker and Fernandes forced Pickford into a sensational double save from close range. Down the other end, the hosts saw the ball in the back of the net through a scrappy effort from the excellent Calvert-Lewin — but it was then waved off for offside by VAR as Gylfi Sigurdsson was deemed to have interfered with the play by sitting in front of De Gea in an offside position and moving his legs out of the way to allow the ball to roll in after a deflection. Nothing like some stoppage time controversy to end the day.
Based on the contrast of the performances in either half, both teams will feel like they should have done enough to sway the game their way, but unfortunately for United, the Reds were not able to make up any ground on Chelsea once again. The bright side is that defensively United looked solid. And offensively, the first half was also very promising. But the mistakes ultimately cost them again. And so, the Reds remain three points adrift of the Champions League places with season defining clashes against Manchester City and Tottenham coming up in the league over the next two weeks.
David De Gea: 6.5/10
Even with the calamitous mistake, the Spaniard was huge in United coming away with a point. He made some huge saves to redeem himself and helped the Reds come away with something in an important game.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: 6.5/10
Struggled a lot going forward and was pestered by the youthful looking Leighton Baines all night defensively. But still, Wan-Bissaka never drops below a certain level of performance. Consistent.
Victor Lindelof: 7/10
This would have been higher, but Calvert-Lewin was terrorizing him all game. It felt like the Everton striker couldn’t put a foot wrong on Sunday, ultimately making Lindelof look a little helpless at times. Otherwise, a very solid showing from United’s center back partnership.
Harry Maguire: 8/10
That might have been one of his most commanding performances in a United shirt. A captain’s performance, leading the team from the back.
Luke Shaw: 7/10
Solid defensively. Didn’t let Coleman nor Sidibe create too much, but didn’t offer a whole lot to United’s attacks.
Another excellent performance from Fred. He was everywhere on that pitch on Sunday. Operating all across the midfield diamond and creating good chances and build-up play in the final third.
Nemanja Matic: 8/10
Also excellent. A very solid defensive midfield display from the Serb. He very much dictated the tempo in midfield and won a lot of balls back for United. Composed on the ball and good at getting it into dangerous areas for the Reds.
Scott McTominay: 6.5/10
Wasn’t amazing, but certainly gets the benefit of the doubt seeing as he has just come back from injury. It’ll take some time to get up to speed with the tempo, etc., particularly if you’re asked to play every three days with just recovery work and not much training. But he wasn’t the weakest link by any means. Just not quite efficient enough.
Bruno Fernandes: 8.5/10
This man can’t put a foot wrong. Sensational. Almost single handedly wiled United to a huge win. Excellently taken goal. His influence on United’s attacking play has been absolutely glaring. Long may that continue with some huge games coming up.
Mason Greenwood: 6.5/10
The young Englishman never really got into the game. Although he did have a few moments initiating the Reds counter attacks and he saw a decent header soar over the bar in the first half. But you expect those kind of performances from your youngsters now and again.
Anthony Martial: 7/10
He wasn’t as bad as some may suggest. Picked the ball up in some dangerous areas and was a threat when around the box. Was he fully fit? We may never know, but willing to play and help the team during this crucial period is admirable and showed a different side to his character.
Odion Ighalo: 6.5/10
That was the moment. It felt like it was written in the stars. Ighalo had the three points on his left boot but for a sensational close range save from Pickford. You can’t really fault the Nigerian there. There was no time to place that shot then, you just have to hit it on frame and hope for the best. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
Juan Mata: 7/10
Promising yet again. Some very good interplay with Bruno. It seems like they have quite an understanding developing in the final third. Good to see for United fans. Almost played a big part in a winner as his pass teed up Fernandes and forced a great save out of Pickford.
Brandon Williams: N/A
Came on for Anthony Martial in stoppage time and didn’t really have enough time to affect the game.