Manchester United 1 Everton 1
Manchester United were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in the Premier League's Saturday lunchtime game.
The Reds took the lead with a ferocious Anthony Martial strike two minutes before half-time. But Rafa Benitez’s visitors hit back with a leveller after 65 minutes with a goal from Andros Townsend.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had freshened up his XI from the team that had dramatically beaten Villarreal 2-1 late on in the Champions League last Wednesday.
The selection looked to have worked with Martial opening the scoring but even the introduction of midweek hero Cristiano Ronaldo from the bench couldn’t force another last-gasp storyline with United also having to endure a nail-biting wait after 85 minutes when Everton's Yerry Mina thought he'd won the match before VAR cancelled his effort out.
FIRST HALF - MARTIAL BRILLIANTLY BREAKS DEADLOCK
The manager’s team selection created a lot of focus on the opportunities for Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani. And the Frenchman and Uruguyan were both at the sharp end of our best two chances of the opening period of the first 45 minutes.
Martial needed to have risen a couple of inches higher in the sixth minute to connect with Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross after great work from the right-back. But our no.9 just couldn’t stretch enough to get over the ball and headed wide.
After 21 minutes came the clearest chance so far for the Reds when Fred’s long cross was met by Cavani, lurking free in the box. The South American’s directed header was pawed away for a corner by Everton no.1 Jordan Pickford.
In between time there had been an agonising low cross from Mason Greenwood that went begging with no United player available at the sharp end in the six-yard area.
It was a bright start by the Reds but we didn’t have it all our own way with Michael Keane, a one-time FA Youth Cup winner with United, glancing a header just wide from an Andros Townsend free kick.
There was a pushing and shoving row between Scott McTominay and Yerry Mina after 29 minutes that sparked a mass argument but referee Michael Oliver calmed it all down without the need for any cards.
After 33 minutes, last Wednesday's Champions League hero David De Gea was back in action with a save to keep out Demarai Gray as a lively encounter see-sawed.
The breakthrough came in the 43rd minute with a devastating finish from Martial. A sweeping move involving Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes found the Frenchman powering in from the left and unleashing a right-foot rocket.
SECOND HALF - EVERTON EQUALISE BEFORE VAR DRAMA
Solskjaer made two early changes after the break, bringing on Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho for Martial and Cavani in the 56th minute.
But it was Everton who made the biggest impact of the second half as they levelled the match up after 65 minutes. The visitors cleared a Fernandes corner and raced quickly upfield to catch out the back-pedalling Reds.
Gray and Doucoure stretched the United players who were scrambling to recover from the set piece breakdown and calmly teed up Andros Townsend for a finish in the box to make it 1-1.
The Reds manager’s response was to bring on Paul Pogba for Fred after 70 minutes and the open nature of the match maintained a high, entertaining tempo, even if it might not have been to Ole’s liking at times.
Everton were dangerous on the break but Ronaldo flashed a shot across the face of the goal after 74 minutes as the action intensified in the closing stages.
United subs Sancho and Pogba combined after 81 minutes for the Frenchman to curl a right footer just wide as the Stretford End rose to the challenge of roaring their heroes home again. Pogba again had a chance two minutes later but he couldn’t guide a Fernandes corner home with his head.
The Reds looked to be completely undone by another Everton counter attack after 85 minutes when Yerry Mina had a simple tap in. There were a few agonising moments before VAR stepped in to cancel out his would-be winner, much to the relief of the Old Trafford faithful.
Ronaldo presented Sancho with a chance to be the decisive star late on, just as the fourth officlal's board went up for added-on time, but his shot lacked power and it was an easy stop for his England team-mate Jordan Pickford.
It was a tense finale but sadly there was no repeat of the midweek European drama and the Reds had to settle for a draw.
United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Varane, Shaw, Fred (Pogba 70), McTominay, Greenwood, Fernandes (c), Martial (Sancho 65), Cavani (Ronaldo 56).
Subs not used: Henderson, Bailly, Alex Telles, Pogba, Lingard, Matic, van de Beek.
Goal: Martial (43).
Everton: Pickford, Keane, Allan, Gray (Dobbin 91), Digne (c), Mina, Townsend, Doucoure, Godfrey, Gordon (Davies 72), Rondon.
Subs not used: Begovic, Lonergan, Kenny, Holgate, Gbamin, Branthwaite, Whitaker.
Goal: Townsend (65).