Manchester United picked up yet another draw in the Premier League, but who kept them in it and who let the side down?
Manchester United’s poor league form continued when they visited Goodison Park. Having put in a brilliant attacking display in the quarter final of the EFL Cup against West Ham, many United fans felt that the fixture with Everton was a good opportunity to gain some momentum in the Premier League. Unfortunately, like so many times already this season, United failed to capitalise on their positive momentum and dropped two points against an out of form Everton side.
Jose Mourinho switched back to a 4-3-3 formation with Michael Carrick holding down the anchor midfield role while Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera attempted to get up and support United’s attack. Ronald Koeman, however, had other ideas. The Dutchman had clearly instructed Idrissa Gueye and Gareth Barry to man-mark both Pogba and Herrera respectively. With Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku giving Carrick no time on the ball, the Reds failed to dominate the midfield and looked vulnerable to the Toffee’s counter attacks. Henrik Mkhitaryan, Antony Martial and Zlatan Ibrahimović, as a result of United’s midfield problems, were left very isolated and struggled to link up effectively.
The first half was a drab contest with very few chances, the better of the slim pickings going to Everton. United struggled to find that killer pass and, despite their superior possession, looked the more likely to concede. However, a long ball from Martial to Ibrahimović saw the Toffee’s goalkeeper, Martin Stekelenburg, make an error of judgement in rushing out to intercept the pass. The Dutchman did not get anywhere near the ball and Zlatan proceeded to chip the ball into the empty net from 25 yards out. Half time came and went and the game opened up at the beginning of the second period, with both teams searching for a much needed goal. Herrera struck the bar in the 59th minute and suddenly United’s heads dropped. Everton proceeded to dominate possession for the final half an hour and David De Gea was called into action an uncomfortable number of times. The Red’s sat back, seemingly content with a one goal advantage and decided to hold out for the win; a massive error of judgement by Mourinho in hindsight. The introduction of Marouane Fellaini led to the Belgian clumsily giving away a penalty in the 86th minute, which Leighton Baines tucked away.
Jose can no longer blame ‘bad luck’ for his team’s inability to close out a game. Maybe the players are more motivated by cup competition? Maybe Jose is not fussed by the League with it looking very unlikely that United will qualify for Champions League football? Whatever the answer, luck can no longer be an excuse. The Reds next task is away to Zorya Luhansk. It is an opportunity for Mourinho to demonstrate his ability to arrest a slump with United having not picked up a single point away from home in the Europa League this season. The unpredictability of Manchester United continues.
GK: David De Gea: 8
It has been a strangely long amount of time since United have relied on De Gea to keep them in a game. His below-par form of recent weeks was turned around at Goodison Park, with United calling on the Spaniard multiple times in the second half to keep them in the game. Made a montage worthy save against Mirallas in the 52nd minute and kept Gueye, Valencia and Baines at bay with decent stops thereafter. Got agonisingly close to Baines’ penalty, but, all in all, won United a point on the balance of play.
RB: Antonio Valencia: 6
A blow par performance from United’s November Player of the Month. Played most of the game in no-mans-land; failing to get up and support Mkhitaryan effectively while being caught out of position a number of times in the first half. Put in a measly two tackles, although one of them was a very important challenge in the box in the 83rd minute.
RCB: Phil Jones: 7
Another very reliable performance from the man who is stereotypically unreliable. Dealt comfortably with the pace and strength of Lukaku, keeping him quiet from the first minute to the last. Played as the sweeping centre half, dropping deep when Marcos Rojo pushed forward to win headers or interceptions, which came naturally to the Englishman. Won two tackles and four headers, bettered only by Rojo for United. Made a very good tackles on Enner Valencia in the 69th minute.
LCB: Marcos Rojo: 6
A game which characterised Rojo’s United career in 90 minutes. Was imperious in the air winning more headers than anyone else on the pitch (8) but made a few rash decision which could have cost the Reds dearly. The Argentinian’s two-footed tackle in the 16th minute should have seen him sent off. Did not fare as well against Lukaku as Jones, often being outmuscled by the bulky Belgian. With Bailly on his way back from injury it is likely that the Argentinian will not be in the first eleven for much longer.
LB: Matteo Darmian: 6
Struggled with the direct running of Yannick Bolasie in the first half and seemed completely lost when in Everton’s final third, consistently cutting in on his stronger right foot but playing unadventurous or inaccurate passes. Grew into the game more in the second half and commanded his area of the pitch defensively but still lacked the impetus going forward. With Luke Shaw sidelined, Darmian is losing the battle with Daley Blind for the starting left-back role on current performances.
CDM: Michael Carrick: 7
One of United’s better performing players against Everton. Made some important interceptions (3) and clearances (3) to stop the Toffee’s breaking. Was not able to dictate the tempo of the game, like he so often does, because of Everton’s press, but his defensive positioning forced the Blues to attack down the flanks. Won three tackles and had an 87% pass accuracy, bettered only by Jones.
RCM: Ander Herrera: 7
Better from the Spaniard than against West Ham in the EFL Cup as he was played in a more comfortable box-to-box role rather than at the base of midfield. Won more tackles than any other United player (5) but gave a limited performance in an attacking sense, not creating any chances for his teammates. Was unlucky to hit the bar from a volleyed effort in the 59th minute. Lost possession dangerously to Lukaku in final quarter of the match when he was caught faffing about in midfield.
LCM: Paul Pogba: 5
A very frustrating performance from the £89 million man. Had a very low pass success rate of 73% and the same went for his dribbling (50%) and aerial duels (33%). Looked like he was trying too hard to produce the spectacular when the basics would have sufficed. Idrissa Gueye had the Frenchman in his back pocket for the majority of the match and won Sky Sport’s man of the match for his efforts.
RM: Henrik Mkhitaryan: 6
Despite earning a second start in the Premier League with his performance against West Ham in the EFL Cup, the Armenian struggled to have to same impact. Was isolated and invisible for the majority of the first half but grew into the game after the break and was at the heart of United’s attacking play when they pressed for a second. His Borussia Dortmund-esque pressing from the front gave Baines and Ramiro Funes Mori issues but the Red’s lacking midfield support hindered Mkhitaryan’s creativity.
LM: Antony Martial: 6
After decimating Michail Antonio in midweek, Martial failed to give Seamus Coleman or his replacement, Mason Holgate, any real issues. His shots were either wayward or straight at Stekelenburg. The Frenchman did, however, play a very good lobbed through ball to Ibrahimović for the Swede to open the scoring. Was substituted for Marcus Rashford in the 83rd minute who did not have much better luck at breaking down Everton’s left flank.
ST: Zlatan Ibrahimović: 6
Played some nice incisive passes in the opening stages of the game but dropped too deep at times when United were looking to find a finisher in the box. His free kick in the 28th minute was, quite frankly, awful. Mourinho may need to battle the Swede’s ego when it comes to direct free kicks because they have been wasteful so far this season, especially when there is a surplus of dead ball specialists in United’s squad. His goal, however, was very well executed when under pressure from the onrushing Stekelenburg.
Marcus Rashford: N/A
Failed to have any better impact than Martial on the left hand side of United’s attacks. Lost possession wastefully in Everton’s final third by trying fancy flicks when a more basic approach may have had a better outcome.
Marouane Fellaini: N/A
I cannot give the Belgian a rating as he only played for ten minutes, but if I could, it would be a 2/10. On his 100th appearance for United, the lanky Belgian stumbled into Gueye in the penalty area and handed Everton the opportunity to level the scores from the penalty spot. This action may well be his last for Mourinho with big errors like this normally provoking the ‘exile treatment’ from the Portuguese manager.