In the last match before the international break, Manchester United needed a win as they hosted a depleted Everton side in terms of personnel, but an impressive one in terms of form for the start of the season.
On the early kick-off, it was a quick turnover from their Champions League win against Villarreal and that showed in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team selection. Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani came in for Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile Scott McTominay and Fred’s midfield partnership was restored after the Brazilian was on the bench mid-week.
It was an impressive first-half for United and that was rewarded minutes before half-time, where Anthony Martial scored on his return to the starting XI after an impressive team move. However, the visitors found an equaliser through Andros Townsend, after Fred failed to win his duel with Demarai Gray on the counter-attack.
Both sides had chances as the second half progressed, however neither could take them and the spoils were ultimately shared in this Premier League encounter.
Story of the game
After a positive result against Villarreal, Solskjaer’s side would want to take that into this fixture and start the game well. That’s exactly what they did.
United were on top for the opening exchanges of the game, and shock inclusion, Anthony Martial, should’ve opened the scorings after just five minutes. A lovely drop of the shoulder gave Aaron Wan-Bissaka all the space in the world to find a cross into the area, and he found the Frenchman towards the back post, however, he completely mistimed his jump and that caused his header to sail wide of the goal.
Everton began to get some authority on the match, but their quick attacks were matched by some diligent defensive work from some of the United backline. Both Salomón Rondón and Abdoulaye Doucouré had shots blocked after quick counters by Victor Lindelöf and Wan-Bissaka respectively throughout the half.Embed from Getty Images
United didn’t fold over though, and remained a threat throughout most of the half with some great moves. Edinson Cavani went close to scoring his first goal in front of a packed Old Trafford crowd when Fred found him with a perfect cross with his weaker foot, however the 34-year-old was denied well by Everton’s Jordan Pickford.
The Reds were impressing with some good link-up throughout on their right side, and it was some cute play on the right which started the move for the opening goal of the match five minutes before half-time. A lovely rotation saw Scott McTominay play inside to Mason Greenwood, who escaped the immediate Everton press.
The 20-year-old fired a midfield splitting pass into Bruno Fernandes, who’s first touch was exquisite. The captain on the day then set the ball up for Anthony Martial, who gobbled up the opportunity to score his first goal for the club since the 9-0 win against Southampton in February.
United’s no.9’s curled finish from the left-side was helped by a slight deflection, however it was a signature finish from the Frenchman, curling in an effort from the left side. This made it his seventh goal against The Toffees, the most he’s scored against any side, and it put his team into the lead just before half-time.
A quiet opening 10 minutes to the second half was bolstered by the introduction of Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho. Yes, you did just read that. The pair replaced Martial and Cavani, the former of which looked to have come off with a slight knock.Embed from Getty Images
However, it was the men in blue who scored just eight minutes after United’s double change. And of course, it was Andros Townsend who scored the goal. As Everton looked to counter, it seemed like Fred was the favourite to get to the ball on the touchline ahead of Gray, however, the former Leicester City man outmuscled, and quite frankly bullied United’s no.17 and the attack was alive.
He was able to pass inside to Doucouré, who played the ball across to Townsend on the right, who was free to slide the ball into the bottom left hand corner. The scores were levelled.
As the game entered the closing stages, it looked like Everton snatched a winning goal as Tom Davies played in Yerry Mina to score in an empty net. However, the Columbian was just offside when the ball was played. United were lucky.
Approaching the last minute, Ronaldo found himself with the ball on the left side of the box, and his backheel set up Sancho for a shot from a tight angle, however, his tame effort was easily claimed by Pickford.
A good start but defensive woes show yet again
The first-half was perhaps United’s best display in a half of football since the opening day victory against Leeds United. However, the visitors still had chances on the counter-attack, and that is ultimately how they found their equaliser in the second half.
Nine games. That’s how matches at Old Trafford have had a goal from the opposition in a row. That’s unacceptable and it’s no surprise. United look timid when defending transitions and that was personified by Fred in the build-up to Everton’s goal.Embed from Getty Images
Villarreal had a hat-full of chances in the transition on Wednesday, but United were bailed out by a last-minute winner. This time there was no such act to save the Reds from their defensive fragilities. Improvements are needed when the side return to acting on the 16th of October.