Manchester United fell short of expectations once again as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton at Old Trafford, with Andros Townsend continuing his brilliant start to the season.
United were bailed out by a late Cristiano Ronaldo winner after an unimpressive performance against Villarreal in midweek, though there was no such drama this time as the Red Devils lacked cohesion in the final third.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sprung something of a surprise by benching Ronaldo in favour of Edinson Cavani, and although that change may not have had the desired effect, United did go into the break leading thanks to Anthony Martial’s first league goal since February.
Ronaldo was introduced from the bench for his 200th Premier League appearance but Everton refused to go away and deservedly levelled thanks to Townsend’s fifth goal of the season, that equaliser preventing United from briefly going top.
The hosts survived a late scare as Yerry Mina saw a goal ruled out for offside following a nervy VAR check for the home faithful.
Everton were arguably the better team for most the first half and went close to the opening goal in the 16th minute with a Michael Keane header that went just wide.
Demarai Gray then forced David de Gea into a great save with a fine long-range effort shortly after a Cavani header that tested Jordan Pickford.
It took a little longer for United to click into gear, but when they did the deadlock was broken. Mason Greenwood picked out Bruno Fernandes, who turned before feeding Martial into the left side of the area and the Frenchman converted via a slight deflection.
Solskjaer introduced Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho as United went in search of the clincher, but Everton caught them on the break to level.
Gray twice held off flimsy tackles from Fred before feeding Abdoulaye Doucoure, and he set Townsend up for a straightforward finish just past the hour.
Everton thought they had a winner as Mina tapped in from Tom Davies’ pass, but United’s blushes were spared as replays showed the Colombian had strayed just offside.
What does it mean? Old Trafford no fortress for United
Seemingly long gone are the days when United could rely on their home form. This was the ninth successive league game at Old Trafford that they have conceded in, only ever reaching 10 in 1971.
While they avoided losing here, thanks to Mina’s goal being disallowed, United’s last eight losses have been on their own turf, making it the longest run of defeats without suffering a reverse on the road in top-flight history.
Gray has been an inspired signing so far for Everton, as has Townsend. But it was the younger of the two wingers who arguably just shaded it at Old Trafford. He may not have got an assist for the equaliser, but his run and persistence were immense, and he was a general nuisance to the United defence.
The Brazilian has come in for a lot of criticism this season and that trend will continue after this. While he may not have been dreadful in general, his role in the Everton goal was. He had two opportunities to clear and failed to take either.
Key Opta Facts
– After also drawing this fixture last season 3-3 despite trailing 2-0 at half-time, Everton are the first side to avoid defeat away at Manchester United in back-to-back Premier League seasons having been behind at the break both times.
– Manchester United have won just two of their last seven home league games (D2 L3), having won eight of their 10 at Old Trafford prior to this run (D1 L1).
– Everton have 14 points from their seven Premier League games this season (W4 D2 L1); only in 2004-05 (16) have they had more after their opening seven matches in the competition, when they went on to achieve their highest finish (fourth)
– The Toffees have gained seven points from trailing positions in the Premier League this season; no side has picked up more.
– Bruno Fernandes’ assist for Manchester United’s opener was his 50th goal involvement in 58 Premier League appearances (30 goals, 20 assists); only Andy Cole (43), Alan Shearer (54) and Eric Cantona (54) reached 50 combined goals and assists in fewer games in the competition.
United go to Leicester City after the international break on October 16, while Everton welcome former manager David Moyes and West Ham the following day.
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