As two of our biggest rivals played each other the next day, it was imperative that Man Utd got all three points. It is something they have found difficult in the home games this season and a somewhat difficult Everton team were always going to pose a threat. Yet they didn’t in the first half, outside of two occasions. Cavani would put United ahead with a back post header and the Bruno strike into the keeper’s top right hand corner was Cantona-esque, in both his execution and celebration of that execution. Everton came back with a bang in the second half, as Doucoure pounced on a keeping mistake and Rodriguez struck firmly into the net as United’s heads were rattled. What looked like the winner would come from a Shaw cross. It was a set piece and McTominay flicked to the far post, with the keeping slipping and failing to keep it out. But Calvert Lewin would steal a point at the death as he was brave while De Gea wasn’t. In the end, it was pretty symptomatic of the good and bad of this 2020/21 season with Man Utd.
The word moment comes from the word momentum. The definition of the former word vary depending on the subject you are talking about but two definitions relate heavily to the game that transpired at Old Trafford this evening. The first being a short period of time – that short period of time being the minutes between 49 and 52. What was done so well prior, which I will come onto later, was undone by the negatives which has underpinned this topsy turvy season. The lack of pace in the centre back pairing was not exploited enough in the first half and when it was, Lindelof almost gifted them a goal with so more shoddy defending. However, the chance wasn’t taken. The time they did take the opportunity, it was exactly how the Blues of Merseyside would have wanted it: a channel run from Calvert Lewin against Maguire. The pass was played. It wasn’t of particular danger. What changed into that immediate danger was a weak parry back into the unguarded box, courtesy of De Gea. Much has been made of the Spaniard’s supposed improvement on the past two seasons but quite frankly, that is a disrespect to the level of his goalkeeping talent. He has been distinctly average. His shot stopping has regressed to such a point where it is no different to the average keeper in the league. When that happens, all the other drawbacks in his game cannot be glossed over.
The second definition comes in a moment being a significant point. Something that of big importance. A goal back shouldn’t mean what occurred should have happened. Nevertheless, in those 3 minutes from Doucoure’s goal to Rodriguez’s goal, it was the typical Man Utd we have seen unable to navigate themselves through crazy minutes. It is in these moments that you see the lack of leadership and technical wherewithal to withstand the pressure that was inevitably going to come from Everton once they got their tails up. The loss of Pogba was felt, as Fred’s strengths look better when chaos is needed from his own team rather than when his team is facing it. Pogba’s ability to keep possession and slow down the game is not great in comparison to his contemporaries in world football but within our midfield, it stands head and shoulders above the rest. That’s just one part of the game however. Mentally, this squad has shown chink in the armour that grows into a gaping hole. This was not a young team. Only three players were less than 24 year olds. Only one of these was within the back seven of the team. De Gea, despite his mistake, has to show more calm, as does the captain, Maguire. Even those in the top part of the pitch, Bruno and Cavani, should be demanding more of those around them to see the game out, go back to basics. Seldom do we see it. As a title challenge seems to grow ever closer, it is these things that will hamper us in the long run.
What has taken us to into the title race however has been the fact that we have managed to score goals. Less so against the traditional big six but always against the other 14. 48 goals in the 17 games against them so far this season. Funnily enough, it was really only Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford who were playing admirably statistically and performance wise. Such was the lack of it, Pogba was often drafted into that front line to add a spark. Today though, they were all on it. In the first half, Greenwood was excellent. So much of his game is spoken of as being one dimensional. Only being able to effect the game when he shots at goal. Anyone who has seen the kid for longer would know this is pure nonsense. He links up well, his touch and close control is sharp, his ability to go past men, even without blistering pace, is stunning and his passing & crossing prowess would be coveted by most. All this and he can do it off both feet. An assist was almost garnered but his cross to the back post was slightly over the head of Cavani. Another occasion saw him beat Digne with ease. Once past the Frenchman, he stood up Andre Gomes and went past him like he wasn’t there. Unfortunately, he snatched at the chance, dragging it wide. A great thing that he brings that United sometimes lack is technical security, which the Bradford born striker has in droves. It was not just him alone though. As soon as Cavani’s presence was fluttered as that cross went over his head, the Red Devils began to find him more and more. A game that was being played in the middle of the pitch was stretched into Everton’s defensive third and with it came the upping in the tempo. The little movement to drag Keane inwards before spinning in behind to meet a delightful Rashford cross shows why even when he is a ghosting figure, you can hardly count out the Uruguayan to have an effect on the game.