A game of two halves at Old Trafford saw the Blues fightback from a two-goal half time deficit, go behind again and snatch a late, late point with Calvert-Lewin netting the last gasp equaliser.
Hot on the heels of the successful trip to Elland Road to avenge a home loss to Leeds, Everton made the short trip down the M62 to Old Trafford looking to avenge two home losses to Manchester United.
After a slow start to the season that saw sections of the media calling for the managers head, Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have improved massively and went into the weekend lying second in the Premier League standings, with only neighbours City ahead of them. And fresh from a 9-0 demolition of Southampton, OGS wanted a third win of the season over Everton to keep pressure on their cross-town rivals.
February 6th will always be remembered as the day of the tragic Munich air disaster, both captains laid wreaths of remembrance and both teams observed a minute’s silence before kick-off in the memory of the eight United players who were among the 23 that lost their lives on that fateful day, 63 years ago. “It’s a big day for everyone and always an emotional one,” said Solskjaer. “It’s only the fourth time the game is played on the actual anniversary and it’s important we put on a fitting performance and hopefully we can put a team out that shows the Manchester United spirit and honour them with the result.”
Solskjaer celebrates his 100th game as a PL manager and joked, “I’m a bit older and wiser hopefully and a lot more grey up top but I’ve really enjoyed it. The difference from when I started in 2014 with Cardiff to now is a different ball game, players get better and better, fitter and fitter, more tactical.” And about locking horns with Carlo Ancelotti again he added, “He’s a manager that you really look up to and respect. He’s a winner everywhere he’s been, influenced PSG with what he started there, what he’s done at AC Milan, Chelsea, Real Madrid… You can see that at Everton as well, started the season fantastically, won last four away games, a team you know you’re in for a battle when you play against them.”
For this crucial game for both clubs, he selected a starting line-up of: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire (c), Shaw, McTominay, Pogba, Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford and Cavani.
Everton bounced back in style on Wednesday with a 2-1 win away at Leeds United and were keen to boost their own hopes of a top four finish with victory at Old Trafford to avenge the earlier league and Carabao Cup quarter-final losses at Goodison Park.
And manager Carlo Ancelotti readily admitted that he needed to change his thinking as to how to beat United at the third time of asking. “We played two games against Manchester United at home and lost both, so there is something we have to change, for sure. If we follow the same way we played [in the Goodison games], we are going to lose. We tried to plan a different strategy and we will see how it works.” He went to add, “The players know it will be difficult but I hope it will be difficult for United to play against us. I am going to rotate other players, this is a normal way I have to manage my squad. To avoid injury and to give more motivation to others.”
Having mentioned rotation and injuries, the boss confirmed that Robin Olsen would continue in goal with Jordan Pickford still recovering from an abdomen problem sustained against Newcastle, and he spoke glowingly of summer signing Ben Godfrey who excelled at Elland Road when he commented, “Ben is doing really well, it was a surprise for me – I knew him but not a lot. I found a really fantastic defender because he has all the qualities a defender needs. He is powerful and has a lot of energy, he is tactically intelligent and really aggressive in the duels. The personality he has, the focus he keeps in every moment of training and games: this is what surprised me.”
With Michael Keane and James Rodriguez having enjoyed a rest at Leeds, The Don weighed up his players and tactical options before naming three changes in his starting eleven: Olsen, Holgate, Keane, Godfrey, Digne (c), Doucoure, Davies, Gomes, Rodriguez, Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin.
Trying to keep up with the players was the rotund referee Jonathan Moss.
A disappointing header by Holgate led to United winning the first corner as a Cavani shot was deflected behind, Tom Davies with the clearing header from the set piece by Shaw. A couple of forays forward from the Blues came to nothing before Lindelof went on an offensive charge, Michael Keane with a timely challenge to stop him in his tracks.
Davies was penalised for a tough challenge on Fernandes who naturally went on to whine in the referees ear. Davies with a long ball found DCL to hold the ball up to find Rodriguez, his cross to the far side was just too strong for Digne. The Blues with some nice play saw Lindelof clear a Digne cross and Wan-Bissaka concede a corner as Rodriguez lofted a ball into the area for Digne, the set piece easily defended but, a decent opening ten minutes from the Blues.
Another good challenge from Davies on Cavani launched another Blues raid, United countering and Everton through Holgate preventing them getting anywhere near the area. Plenty of one touch football from both sides was making for enjoyable watching with both sides keen to get forward and test each others defences.
Just before the twenty minute mark, a second corner for the home side saw Pogba get to it, Doucoure taking no chances with the clearance at the back post. At the other end Shaw got back to block DCL and a cross intended for Doucoure was smuggled away by Maguire and Pogba. Greenwood got away on the right and jinked his way into the Everton area before pulling his shot across the face of goal, the best chance of the half so far.
It was United though who opened the scoring in the 24th minute, Fernandes and Rashford combining on the right for Rashford to cross to the back post where Cavani arrived beyond Keane to plant a simple header past Olsen for his third goal in three games against the Blues.
DCL with some good defensive work denied Maguire on a forward charge but boosted by having grabbed the lead, United were looking confident as interplay between Rashford, Cavani and Fernandes demonstrated. Everton were getting caught in midfield too easily and when Rodriguez lost out to McTominay, he fed Wan-Bissaka to cross at pace for Cavani to see his mishit shot blocked and cleared by Michael Keane.
Pogba went down off the ball holding his thigh and gingerly walked off to be replaced Fred on 39 minutes. Good work from Gomes stopped Greenwood in his tracks only for Rodriguez to cough up possession too easily as United closed him down quickly. Gomes sent the ball left for Digne, Lindelof not looking when he played a backpass straight to Richarlison who tried to find the far post but pushed his effort wide.
Rashford getting forward found Fred arriving on his right, the Brazilian pulling his shot wide of the target. Tom Davies with a raking pass found Richarlison who got into the area and then fell over the ball, and the half chance was lost. And United strolled, and I do mean strolled, down the other end with Fred finding Wan-Bissaka to roll the ball inside for Fernandes to look up and nonchalantly plant a shot over Olsen for two-nil.
In the added-on minute, Everton should have reduced the arrears as a long ball from Holgate found DCL and gaining the area he saw his shot beat De Gea and the post – a disappointing end to a disappointing half as if it had gone in, it would have been riled out for offside.
Half Time: 2-0
No changes for the second half by Carlo Ancelotti whose inspirational qualities were to be tested as United went for a third, Shaw attacking at speed to take a return pass from Cavani to test Olsen who palmed his shot to safety.
With barely three minutes on the second half clock, Everton hit back with a flowing move that saw Digne and Davies exchange passes, Tom then releasing DCL to get beyond Maguire and see his cross palmed out by De Gea straight to Abdoulaye Doucoure following up and he gleefully netted.
It was all Everton now and three minutes later, another flowing move started by Tom Davies saw the ball crossed in from Digne, come out to Doucoure and he found James Rodriguez to crash home the equaliser.
Gomes with a solid challenge rattled Fernandes, not before time in my peoples eyes, before DCL got back to concede a corner that Tom Davies cleared. Olsen needlessly conceded a corner getting a touch to a Shaw cross that was going nowhere near a red shirt.
An hour gone and a game that looked at half time to have been beyond Everton was now poised on a knife edge, if only the Blues could get Richarlison into the game to the best of his undoubted attacking qualities. United were still getting too much cheap possession and when Cavani fed a ball through to Rashford, Olsen got his angles right to deny him at close range at the expense of a corner that was cleared.
Play was again switching end to end, Gomes and Digne seeing a move break down with United breaking through Rashford and Cavani with Fernandes penalised for a high boot on Ben Godfrey. Greenwood was lucky not to see yellow for a cynical pull on Rodriguez, Everton using the 69th minute stoppage to replace James Rodriguez with Gylfi Sigurdsson.
A foul by Holgate on Shaw saw Shaw swing in the free kick and McTominay climbed above DCL to flick on a header that Olsen, losing his footing, couldn’t reach.
Shaw rightly saw yellow for a late tackle on Holgate, Sigurdsson seeing his cross cleared by Cavani and leading to another foul on Holgate, this time by Fred. Alex Iwobi replaced Tom Davies before the free kick was taken, Sigurdsson to the back post where Godfrey headed down for DCL who saw his short range effort saved from his offside position.
United attacked with Keane tackling Rashford well but the home side kept the pressure on through Cavani and Greenwood before Fred picked out Fernandes who put his curling shot over the bar. Rashford again caused trouble getting on the end of a through ball from Fernandes to turn 360 and fire across the face of goal. Rashford was proving a real problem and cutting in off the left flank he drew a foul from and a yellow card for Michael Keane, the set piece almost dead centre in the penalty area ‘d’ Fernandes unable to get his shot to dip below the crossbar.
With ten minutes to play, Josh King made his second substitute appearance replacing Doucoure as the Blues needed more in attack if they were to salvage a point.
Digne and Gomes worked well to create an opening for Digne to shoot, clipping the outside of the post as De Gea gambled pulling his feet from stopping the shot. As time became the crucial factor, United were happy to recycle the ball in midfield trying to draw Everton out, DCL then pressuring and beating Maguire to send a great ball into the path of Richarlison and under pressure from Lindelof and Fred, he pushed his effort wide of the target.
Holgate to King to Digne and his cross was put out for a throw-in as four added minutes were signalled. Keane flicked the long throw on but only into the hands of De Gea. Holgate got back to prevent a corner as United wasted time with Greenwood being replaced by Tuanzebe. The seconds were ebbing away when Wan-Bissaka was booked for bringing down King, Olsen rushing upfield for the free kick and incredibly, the set piece from Digne found its way from the head of Keane through to Dominic Calvert-Lewin and he tucked it beyond De Gea to give the Blues a hard-earned point.