Dominic Calvert-Lewin secured a dramatic point for Everton in the fifth minute of stoppage time as they twice came from behind to hold Manchester United in a six-goal thriller at Old Trafford.
On the 63rd anniversary of the Munich air disaster, Scott McTominay’s header seemed to have sealed a victory that would have taken United level on points with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
However, after they had already responded superbly to falling two behind before half-time on Saturday, Everton refused to buckle.
And, as United grew increasingly desperate, Calvert-Lewin took advantage of weak defending from a Lucas Digne free-kick to stab in from close range.
United are now two points behind league leaders City and have also played two games more than their neighbours.
Speaking about the situation at the top of the table, boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told Sky Sports: “We’re not talking about winning titles.
“We’ve come a long way. We shouldn’t be considered as title chasers. That’s one for you [media]. We’ve got better as a team – let’s see where we end up.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side only had themselves to blame for failing to secure maximum points. Excellent first-half efforts from Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes should have been the prelude to a comfortable second period.
But goalkeeper David de Gea’s mistake gifted Abdoulaye Doucoure a goal four minutes after the restart and, on the visitors’ next attack, James Rodriguez rifled home the equaliser before McTominay’s header was cancelled out by Calvert-Lewin’s late intervention.
Fernandes’ brilliant effort in vain
Given the poignancy of the day, it was fitting one of the four academy graduates in the United line-up should play a significant role in the opener.
Marcus Rashford has represented the Old Trafford club in the best way possible off the field during lockdown but it should never be forgotten what an excellent player the 23-year-old forward is.
His cross, from the right side of the box to the far post, dropped perfectly over Michael Keane for Cavani, who had used all his game intelligence to give himself the space required to finish.
Fernandes’ superb second brought back memories of Eric Cantona’s audacious chip against Sunderland in 1996 – the Portugal midfielder taking his time, after Tom Davies had misread his intentions, before lifting the ball over Robin Olsen from the edge of the area, even though the Everton keeper was only a couple of yards off his line.
From his seat in the directors’ box, Sir Alex Ferguson must have been impressed. And the character United showed to respond to Everton’s fightback after the break would no doubt have pleased their former manager too, although questions will be asked of Olsen, who failed to keep out McTominay’s header from Luke Shaw’s deep free-kick.
Sadly for Ferguson, the ending was reminiscent of a 4-4 draw between these two teams at this ground in 2012.
As good as a win for Ancelotti
Although Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti did not become the second manager after Tottenham’s Jose Mourinho to win at Old Trafford with three different teams, after previous successes with AC Milan and Chelsea, the manner of the draw must feel like a victory for the Italian.
Calvert-Lewin had already given notice of the Toffees’ battling qualities when he failed to take a good chance at the end of the first half and the visitors showed no sign of inferiority when they came out with a clear sense of purpose after the break.
They would have known also that United have lost six times at home already this season, winning consecutive games only twice and – Wednesday’s 9-0 hammering of Southampton apart – are in an inconsistent run of form that has returned just nine points from their past six matches.
On his first appearance at Old Trafford, Rodriguez made life difficult for the hosts and the Colombian’s sweet strike for the equaliser gave De Gea no chance.
However, the Spain keeper had already given Everton a helping hand by pushing Calvert-Lewin’s weak cross straight to Doucoure when he appeared to have a number of alternative options.
Judging by this performance, Calvert-Lewin is certainly getting his early-season confidence back.
The England forward has now scored in consecutive Premier League games for the first time since the beginning of October, taking his tally to 13, the same as Fernandes and two behind Golden Boot leader Mohamed Salah.
‘The last kick of the ball kicks us in the teeth’ – what they said
Manchester United manager Solskjaer: “We deserved to win the game but that is football for you. You have to take your chances and cannot concede with every shot.
“In the first half, I did not feel we played particularly well but we scored two fantastic goals. You go in at the break 2-0 up feeling we have not hit where we could do. After 2-2, we played really well then the last kick of the ball kicks us in the teeth and we go home disappointed.
“We have to focus on improving as a team. We are scoring more goals, creating chances and felt we dominated the game and should have won it. The fans can see we are a team that is trying to go for it. Even at 3-2 up we wanted to get the fourth.”
Everton boss Ancelotti: “Wow, what a game. It was fantastic emotion. What can I say?
Even if we were shy in the first half, we played with more courage in the second half. We attacked and pressed forward. At the end, we deserved to have a point.
“The first half we started well and were in good control. Instead of passing forward we passed backward. Play with more courage, I told the players. That is what they did second half.
“[James] Rodriguez had a problem at the end of the first half with a tight calf. But he said he wanted to try and after that he was tired. It was a risk but I was confident in him.
“It was like a win but it is just one point, We competed against one of the best in the Premier League. We are not at the same level but we can fight and compete with our qualities. I am proud of my team.”
United’s defensive lapses – that stats
- This was just the fourth time Manchester United led a Premier League home game by at least two goals and failed to win, with Everton responsible for the past two occasions (also 4-4 in April 2012).
- United have conceded 18 goals in 12 home league games this season, one more than they did in the whole of last season at Old Trafford.
- Everton scored with all three of their shots on target, while Manchester United found the net with three of their five attempts on target.
- Four of Cavani’s six Premier League goals for Manchester United have been headers, with only Calvert-Lewin scoring more headed goals in the competition this season (five).
- Since his debut in the Premier League, only Liverpool’s Salah (22) has scored more Premier League goals than United’s Fernandes (21). Meanwhile, only Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse (five) has scored more goals from outside the box than the Portuguese’s four.
- United midfielder McTominay has scored in back-to-back Premier League games for the first time, with the Scotland international netting four goals in his past five league games at Old Trafford.
- Shaw has assisted three goals in his past two Premier League games for United, as many as in his previous 48.
- Everton’s Doucoure scored more Premier League goals against Manchester United (three) than he has against any other team.
- Rodriguez has been involved in 12 goals for Everton this season (five goals, seven assists), with his strike on Saturday his first goal or assist away from Goodison Park.
Manchester United entertain West Ham in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Tuesday (19:30 GMT kick-off) before visiting West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on 14 February (14:00).
Everton also have a home FA Cup tie, against Tottenham on Wednesday (20:15), then host Fulham in the league next Sunday (19:15).