Sir Alex Ferguson knows all about taking matches to the very end. Not for nothing was lengthy time added on for stoppages at Old Trafford known as “Fergie Time” — the legendary Manchester United boss saw plenty of climactic, last-gasp goals scored by his team here over the years. Today, however, just as it was in 2012 when Everton nabbed an even more dramatic 4-4 draw, the shoe was on the other foot.
Sitting in the stands behind an ample black mask, Ferguson had to watch as Dominic Calvert-Lewin plundered an unlikely draw for the Toffees with the last kick of an entertaining, goal-laden contest. Had 3,000 or so Evertonians been in attendance it would have been a “limbs” occasion for the ages; as it was they had to be content with bouncing around on their sofas but no less pleased for a thrilling conclusion to a game that had at one stage looked well beyond their team.
Sometimes, it’s all about taking your chances. Everton were a model of efficiency, scoring with each of the three shots on target they fashioned in 90-plus minutes. Prior to that, they had trailed United 2-0 and then 3-2, having implausibly clawed themselves back to 2-2 early in the second half. The home side had been denied by Robin Olsen in the 63rd minute when the Swede saved well from Edinson Cavani and profited from the keeper’s apparent slip as Scott McTominay’s header looped in in the 70th minute.
Olsen might have played a role in the second equaliser, however — having been waved forward for the final set-piece of the evening, it was his presence and out-stretched arm that forced Harry Maguire back the half yard that initially played three Everton players onside when ball was struck and the defender remained behind the wall of Blue when Michael Keane flicked it on for Calvert-Lewin to snatch a point.
As if it needed to be impressed on the Blues again after the win at Leeds in midweek, this was also another reminder that tempo, belief and courage are going to be vital if Carlo Ancelotti’s team is to achieve its European dream this season. It was a perceptible shift up a couple of gears that sparked the comeback after half-time and you felt afterwards that a bit more of that approach might have yielded an ever better result against a United defence that can be vulnerable when properly pressured.
But while they started well enough, Everton dropped off United after the first quarter of an hour and started giving their hosts too much respect and far too much space. The visitors had had a couple of promising forays forward and had actually shaded possession in the early going but a Paul Pogba header off a corner that Abdoulaye Doucouré had to clear away from his six-yard box and a slaloming run by Mason Greenwood that ended with him dragging a shot across the face of goal were warning signs of what was to come.
In the 24th minute, Rashford was afforded plenty of room to size up a cross from the home team’s right flank and he bent a ball into the six-yard box where Cavani used all his experience to get between Keane and Mason Holgate to nod downwards and past Olsen at the far post.
Bruno Fernandes had a shot easily dealt with by the goalkeeper and after United had passed their way through Everton’s midfield all too easily, Fred fired wide of goal. Meanwhile, at the other end, Richarlison tried to punish David de Gea for abandoning his goal but his attempt to curl the ball around the keeper into the open goal missed the far post.
Repeating the errors of the reverse fixture at Goodison Park in November, though, Everton left Fernandes to his own devices for too long on the edge of the box and he took the invitation to pick his spot in the top corner of Olsen’s net and hit it with a deft, sweeping shot from 18 yards that glided over the ‘keeper’s despairing glove to make it 2-0.
In truth, it all felt a little desperate by this point and more than a bit reminiscent of successive trips to this stadium under David Moyes that, the occasional fight aside, always had an air of futility about them. To their credit, Solskjaer’s side looked a different level, passing and moving, pinging the ball about confidently and carving through Everton’s midfield seemingly at will at times.
Another incisive move ended with Luke Shaw having a crack first time from just outside the area but Olsen parried it away to safety.
Calvert-Lewin missed when put clean through on goal with just De Gea to beat in first-half stoppage time, a moment that was more useful in illustrating that for all his predatory instincts inside the six-yard box, he still has to add composure in one-on-one situations further out from goal to his arsenal than it was pivotal because the linesman’s flag went up for offside after the ball had gone dead.
Ancelotti had identified some of the issues behind his team’s first-half under-performance and with the second half just a few minutes old, it was clear that he had demanded more forward momentum from his players and instructed Doucouré to press further forward.
Tom Davies, who, without support, had been caught between the need to close Fernandes down and block a possible shot from the Portuguese for United’s second, was lively and alert in the first period and had his best game for a long while in defensive midfield. He epitomised the uptick in tempo early in the second and, striding out of defence, in the 49th minute, he played a one-two with Lucas Digne and then threaded a beautiful pass behind Harry Maguire for Calvert-Lewin to take to the byline.
The striker prodded the ball across goal, De Gea could only bat it into the path of Doucouré who had galloped forward in the interim and then cut across the box behind Shaw to seize on the loose ball and knock it over the line from close range.
The French midfielder’s impressive movement was key to the equaliser just three minutes later as well. It was he who collected a pass from James Rodriguez to fee to Digne overlapping down the left and when Victor Lindelof glanced the full-back’s cross on to the other side, it was Doucouré who picked up possession.
He spotted James at the top the box and may have over-cooked the centre, but the Colombian controlled it expertly and elegantly drilled a perfectly-placed shot wide of De Gea to make it 2-2. Proof positive that you can have spent much of the first 45 minutes on the periphery of the action (with an increasingly tight calf, it seems) and even a little out of place in Everton’s system as Rodriguez did but still weigh in with a telling moment of sheer quality.
Predictably but no less unsettlingly, it was Man United who responded more purposefully and once again Olsen was called upon to make an important save when he foiled Rashford at his near post in the 63rd minute.
Their third goal was avoidable and unfortunate in equal measure. Despite the Blues’ recent success with Mason Holgate at right back, the Yorkshireman is an uncomfortable presence in the role and this afternoon was far from his best performance, although he was often a willing outlet down the right flank.
It was his needless foul on Luke Shaw near the touchline that handed the United left-back the chance to swing a free-kick into the box with 20 minutes to go, one that Scott McTominay rose to meet in the zone you felt Yerry Mina would have dominated had he been playing and guided a header inside the far post. In real time it looked to be an awful lapse on Olsen’ part but replays would show he lost his footing with his left boot and couldn’t get the purchase in the turf to prevent the ball looping over his gloves.
Rashford lashed a decent chance wide after being played in and cutting back on his left foot and Fernandes dropped a direct free-kick narrowly over after Keane had committed another annoyingly unnecessary foul right on the edge of his area but it was Everton who went closer to scoring in the final 10 minutes of the regulation 90.
Digne drove a low, left-footer off the outside of the post and then after Calvert-Lewin had out-muscled Maguire and fed Richarlison, the Brazilian failed to even find the target, smashing wide.
If that felt like the last chance, there would be one more when United failed to keep hold of possession as the game ticked past the allotted four minutes added for stoppages on account of Solskjaer’s decision to replace Greenwood with Axel Tuanzebe to waste a few more seconds.
Ironically, it was the substitute’s foul on Josh King, an 81st-minute introduction for Doucouré, that set up the decisive free-kick. Olsen joined the attack for the final push, Keane got a crucial touch and after knocking it down off his midriff, Calvert-Lewin showed superior desire to lurch forward and hook the ball past the advancing De Gea into the goal.
Cue wild celebration in the corner tinged with the usual fear that it might all get called back by the Video Assistant Referee but there would be no hairline decision based on arbitrary markers on a screen 200 miles away in Stockley Park — this goal was going to stand! It marked only the second time United have failed to win in the Premier League era when leading 2-0 at half-time. It’s also the first time since that 4-4 draw with Everton nine years ago that they have not won at home when 2-0 up.
As one of those thrilling draws that feels like a win, this could be a catalytic result for Everton going into an important FA Cup Fifth Round tie against Tottenham on Wednesday and one that will hopefully stand them in very good stead for upcoming League matches against the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea in the next month.
While disillusioning lapses like the defeats to West Ham and Newcastle keep cropping up, a top-four finish will remain somewhat optimistic but when this Everton side decides to turn it on, they can hurt anyone on their day. If only they believed it more often.
Everton take their excellent record away from home to Old Trafford where they have only won twice in the Premier League era when they face title-chasing Manchester United.
Olsen retains his place with only one keeper, Virginia, on the bench where Carlo Ancelotti names the full complement of 9 players this time, with Niels Nkounkou named. Keane returns to the starting line-up. King is on the bench again with Richarlison, Rodriguez and Calvert-Lewin given the main responsibilities in attack.
The Blues kicked off with an aimless hoof upfield, immediately conceding possession. Cavani fired behind off Davies, winning a corner that Everton cleared. A promising Everton attack ended with a poor ball from Holgate to a defender.
Lindelof looked to run through the entire Everton midfield until he met Michael Keane. Davies kicked Fernades to dispossess him, giving up a free-kick.
Davies released a great ball for Calvert-Lewin, who was forced to take it wide and the cross wasn't right for Digne. Some really good movement won a corner off a clever ball over the top from James but his delivery curled behind the byeline.
Everton were able to move the ball forward well, Gomes finding Richarlison, but the final ball was too difficult for Calvert-Lewin. James was seeing a lot of the ball but his passes were being anticipated by the Man Utd players and he was finding it hard to impact the game.
Greenwood curled in a wicked cross that was over Cavani and headed behind by Holgate. Pogba got in a powerful header that was going wide and Doucouré cleared.
Greenwood got past Digne and bamboozled Gomes with his run in on goal but screwed his shot well wide across the 6-yard area. Doucouré gave away a really soft pass in midfield, and a cross from Rashford was then buried at the far post by that man Cavani, a horrible error and a shocking gift from the Blues.
It was a massive blow for Everton, undoing all the good work that had been building up to a good release ball through Richarlison or Digne. Now, the entire tempo of the game would change with Man Utd suddenly comfortable in the driving seat.
The Red Devils then dominated the play with The Blue shirts of Everton looking raged and lost unable to get any time on the ball, let alone mount an attack.
Cavani and Digne collided, a free-kick to Utd but Fernades thankfully wasted it. However, the one-directional onslaught simply resumed in midfield, interrupted by Pogba pulling something near his groin, Fred replacing him.
EVerton continued to play zombie football until Gomes suddenly played a good forward ball. It looked like a lost cause but it fell to Richarlison, taken somewhat by surprise, with De Gea out of his goal but the Brazilian failed to punish him with a wayward shot.
One-way traffic resumed but Fred missed what would have been a sitter for Pogba, pushing his shot wide as Everton rocked under the punches once again. The ball did come to Richarllison but he just simply fell over under the presence of two defenders in his proximity.
Meanwhile, back at the other end, Davies waved his leg at Fernandes who whipped in a wicked shot that flew over Olsen and into the Everton net. What a disaster.
Calvert-Lewin was played in for a one-on-one with De Gea, he hit it reasonably hard this time to beat De Gea, and beat the far post, only to see the linesman then raise his offside flag.
The one-way traffic resumed after the break, Shaw stinging Olsen's palms. Everton broke down the left through Davies and he fed DL who ran in and shot at a narrow-angle, forcing a parry from De Gea that fell nicely for Doucouré to make amends with a tap-in.
Everton somewhat regained their belief on the back of this and started to take the game to their much-vaunted hosts, and, when the ball fell to James, he fairly hammered it home to equalize inside 7 minutes of the break, off a brilliant cut-back from Doucouré. Remarkable.
Richarlison got forward and swung in a great cross but Calvert-Lewin was lagging too far behind to take advantage. Calvert-Lewin was in position in defence to head away a good free-kick delivered from Rashford, with Everton having to repel a number of Man Utd attacks.
They worked it through to Rashford, who failed to beat Olsen from close quarters. Everton then had to batten down for a period of resistance until Greenwood rugby tackles Rodriguez just before he was removed in favour of Sigurdsson.
And from an innocuous Man Utd free-kick wide left, Shaw delivered a decent cross that McTominay glanced past Olsen as he flapped at the ball, seemingly losing his footing to give the lead back to the home side.
Everton had a couple of free-kicks from Sigurdsson after Shaw fouled and it seemed Calvert-Lewin had a great chance but he was offside again. Everton lived dangerously at the other end, Fernandes curling his shot just over. Then Rashford got into a good position only to spin and shoot across goal.
Keane had to foul Rashford and take yellow, setting up a classic set-piece chance that Fernandes shot over, as King came on for Doucouré.
Everton attacked in numbers but Digne was a little wasteful, trying to beat Dea at an angle with players running into the Man Utd area. King was involved on the left but did very little to really change the game.
Calvert-Lewin rather brutishly picked Maguire's pocket and fed Richarlison who snatched at his shot and drove it wide of De Gea's goal.
Everton threatened again well after the 4 minutes of added time (following an additional Man Utd sub) and stole a draw off a late free-kick after Tuanzebe had fouled King for a yellow card. A fine delivery from Digne glanced off Keane and Calvert-Lewin took it well on his body then poked it past David De Gea to give the Blues that winning feeling despite only drawing the game.
Kick-off: 8pm, Saturday 6 February 2021 on Sky Sports
Referee: Jon Moss
VAR: Andre Marriner
Manchester United: De Gea, Wan Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw [Y:73'], McTominay, Pogba (39' Fred), Greenwood (90+3' Tuanzebe [Y:90+5]), Bruno Fernandes, Rashford, Cavani.
Subs: Henderson, Martial, James, Telles, Matic, Williams, Van de Beek.
Everton: Olsen, Holgate, Keane [Y:80'], Godfrey, Digne, Doucouré (81' King), Davies (75' Iwobi), Gomes, Rodriguez (69' Sigurdsson), Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison.
Subs not Used: Virginia, Coleman, Nkounkou, Mina, Delph, Bernard.
Everton take their excellent record away from home to Old Trafford where they have only won twice in the Premier League era when they face title-chasing Manchester United this Saturday.
The Blues partially atoned for their awful display against Newcastle last week by beating Leeds United at Elland Road in midweek and they will travel along the M62 hoping to pull off another big win that would put them back into the conversation for Champions League qualification.
They will come up against a United side who smashed Southampton 9-0 on Tuesday evening to stay within three points of the Premier League summit. Granted, just like their hugely dramatised 6-1 reverse to Tottenham at the beginning of the season when they had a man sent off very early in the game, Southampton were reduced to 10 men after only two minutes and they lost Jan Bednarek in the second half after which another three goals were scored.
So, while it makes for a daunting scoreline and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men will surely take great confidence from it, it's a result that should be viewed in its proper context.
Nevertheless, as already mentioned, Everton's record in Manchester is not good and they have lost to United twice already this season, first in the League and then in the Carabao Cup, and deservedly so on both occasions. This time will hopefully be different insofar as Carlo Ancelotti's side will want to make amends for those two performances and, again, they've been flying in matches on the road in recent weeks. Indeed, they haven't lost away from home since losing at Newcastle on 1st November.
They also avoided disgracing themselves on their last two visits to Old Trafford, grinding out a creditable 1-1 draw under Duncan Ferguson last season and losing narrowly 2-1 in controversial circumstances in 2018-19. (The less said about the 4-0 drubbing suffered under Ronald Koeman in September 2017 the better.)
Perhaps the biggest question in the run-up to this fixture is what — if any — changes Ancelotti should make to the side that started at Leeds. With United's talent and movement, particularly up front, it's a game that will likely pose similar challenges to Wednesday evening, albeit with the obvious need to stifle Bruno Fernandes.
An unchanged line-up would, of course, mean no place for James Rodriguez, a notion that seems almost laughable. Alex Iwobi performed adequately at Elland Road and he would be the obvious one to make way but it would necessitate a tweak to Everton's approach given that the Nigerian is faster and better at tracking back. On the other hand, James is James and if that notorious hole on front of right-back that United exploited so successfully in November can be addressed then it would be hard to leave him on the bench again.
Everyone else has earned their place and even if Jordan Pickford had been passed fit for this one, it would have been a surprise to Robin Olsen dropped given his vital exploits against Leeds. A clean bill of health for Allan might have been a different situation, however, as he would be best suited to shackle Fernandes but this game comes too soon for the Brazilian.
Prior to their dismantling of Saints, United had won just one of four League games either side of a 3-2 win over Liverpool in the FA Cup. They were held by the reds at Anfield and by Arsenal at the Emirates a few days after Sheffield United shocked them by winning 2-1 in Manchester. They have been close to full strength in recent weeks and are expected to be again this weekend.
Kick-off: 8pm, Saturday 6 February 2021 on Sky Sports
Referee: Jon Moss
VAR: Andre Marriner
Last Time: Manchester United 1 - 1 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Olsen, Holgate, Mina, Godfrey, Digne, Doucouré, Gomes, Rodriguez, Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin