United were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton at Old Trafford, which has put the Red Devils’ hopes of securing a top-four position in jeopardy. Phil Jagielka scored the opening goal in the first half, and Everton were on course to upset United before Ashley Williams gifted United a penalty in the dying moments of the match. Ibrahimovic calmly converted the spot kick to save his team’s day.
Everton opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, when some shambolic defending from Manchester United gifted Jagielka an unlikely goal. Fellaini was at fault for poor man marking on Ashley Williams, Rojo was at fault for not reacting swiftly, while De Gea was expected to do better. Jagielka, who reacted first, scored his first goal since May 2015. He had an excellent first half, as apart from his, he superbly dealt with Rashford on two dangerous occasions.
The second half began with Mourinho taking off Blind in favour of his world record buy, Paul Pogba, and opting for an attacking team with just three defenders. Ibrahimovic’s goal in the 71st minute was (as shown in replays) wrongly called offside, as United opted for a long ball approach against a solid Everton defence. The tie looked lost for United when Ibrahimovic spurned the best chance of the night, heading Rashford’s pinpoint corner off target from point-blank range. However, there was further drama left in the game as Ashley Williams was sent off in the 93rd minute for handling the ball post Shaw’s effort, and the resulting penalty was coolly slotted home by the United talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
With this draw, United’s bid for a top four position looks potentially over, particularly because their opponents have easier run-ins in the final stages of the season, with United still to play Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham before the season ends. United could, however, benefit from slip-ups from the likes of City and Liverpool, who are to face Chelsea and Bournemouth next, respectively.
Here are the Talking Points from the match-
Everton deserved to win
Even though Ibrahimovic’s goal was wrongly ruled offside, United did not deserve even a point from this encounter. Everton were by far the better team, not in terms of possession or chances created, but on overall play. Their transition from defending to counter-attacking was sublime at times, and were unlucky to not score any more goals. Ronald Koeman must be pretty gutted as his side probably deserved to win, and were about to do so were it not for Ashley Williams’ stupid handball resulting in a penalty in the final minute of stoppage time.
Line-up reshuffling required
Many of the players who started for United today are out of form, and need to be dropped in favour of other, better players. Lingard, Rashford and Fellaini were dreadful, and should make way for players like Martial and Mkhitaryan for the next match. Mourinho needs to take action now and do what needs to be done. A change in the formation would be welcome as well. A two-man central midfield with a number 10 is what Mourinho needs to opt for against Sunderland, if he is to stay (at least mathematically) in the race for the top four.
Crisis at Manchester United?
This was United’s second league draw in the space of four days, and at the most crucial point when United needed most points in a bid to keep their top four hopes alive. Losing four points when you are heavy favourites to win all six has no doubt made fans furious, and it is up to Jose to make sure that this crisis ends against Sunderland at the weekend.
Old Trafford no longer a fortress
United have now scored just 21 goals at home in the league this season, which is fewer than the likes of Burnley, Bournemouth and Watford. Not just that, United have won just 4 of their last 13 league matches at Old Trafford, which is a shameful tally considering the fact that not too long ago, the stadium used to be a nightmare for opponents to come and play at. So, it can now officially be confirmed that the team has let the club’s history down, by turning Old Trafford into a normal stadium in England.
Top four gone?
United are now four points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, and their top four hopes look to be potentially over as City face an easier run-in with just 9 games left in the season. With pundits and fans all over the world suggesting that winning the Europa League is now the only way for United to play in the Champions League next season, the European second tier is being highly underestimated. A team which cannot dismantle a lower position team at home with a nearly full-strength squad cannot expect to have an easy run in the Europa League. Simply put, on current form, United are unlikely to win the Europa League and are even more unlikely to finish in the top four. So, does that mean one more season without Champions League for Manchester United? Probably.