Following Chelsea’s defeat at home to Bournemouth on Saturday as well as Wolves and Arsenal respectively taking on Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City on Super Sunday, it gave Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a huge opportunity of moving towards the top four if they could beat an Everton side that looks completely revived under coach Duncan Ferguson.
Going into the game, Solskjaer would have been full focus on achieving the three points and would not have been too worried about the opposition given their injury issues, with a potential victory pushing them to just two behind fourth-place Chelsea. Meanwhile, for Duncan Ferguson, he would be taking it game by game as the coach of Everton, as he aims to help the Toffees to climb up the league title once again before they are in a good position to find the right manager for the club.
In regards to the game as a whole, the hosts had predictably controlled most of the possession and were able to convincingly attempt more than 20 shots throughout the whole game. On the other hand, the visitors were able to cause a few problems of their own through the aerial presence and pace that was offered in midfield and attack, catching out United’s defence from time to time.
United began on the front foot, and were able to produce a few good half chances but were not converted by the likes of Daniel James or Jesse Lingard. Just after those moments went begging, the game became more end-to-end, which started to favour the visitors as only David De Gea, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof were in their own half, allowing Everton’s attack to constantly be alert.
The Toffees shockingly took the lead in the 36th minute of the game, as a corner was sent in from Leighton Baines which was not punched away successfully by David De Gea, who was actually impeded by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, before the ball had flicked off Victor Lindelof and into the net. In all honesty, a goal was coming for the Ferguson’s men, as United were constantly giving the ball away, failing to clear the ball out from the danger areas and could not string a couple of passes.
After the half-time break, Solskjaer’s young boys continued to dominate possession of the ball and especially in the Everton’s half of the pitch, but were lacking the much needed quality to create the clear-cut chances and to get onto the end of them too. And in the meantime, it was the defensive quality of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire that was on display, as they did more than enough in preventing the opposition from doubling their lead and forcing more misery on the Red Devils.
However, after bringing on Mason Greenwood from the bench for Jesse Lingard along with a couple of tactical tweaks, United began to once again pose a huge threat to Everton’s backline and to Jordan Pickford. It didn’t take long for the substitute to make an important impact, 12 minutes later in the 77th minute, as he picked up the ball from Daniel James just near the penalty box before lashing it past the goalkeeper and into the back of net, as the whole of Old Trafford wildly erupted.
In the last ten minutes of the game, neither side had the ideal urgency to look for the much needed second and winning goal, as both teams settled for a draw and with the points shared out. Looking at the Premier League table, Manchester United now drop to sixth-place with Jose Mourinho’s Spurs going ahead of them whilst Everton sit in 16th place, just three points above the relegation zone.
Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…
Solskjaer needs a plan to beat the mid-table teams
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has proven himself against the big teams so far this season, where his side have been able to dictate the game from deep and constantly counter-attack with full success. Though, it’s his record against the teams that are in the middle of the table that have let him down, which will prevent his team from finishing in the top four and from progressing forward as a whole.
So far this season, the Red Devils have lost to Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Newcastle whilst drawing to teams such as Aston Villa, Everton and Southampton, the types of games which they would have won a year ago. The questions will be raised about the player’s mentality and mindset, as they were really sloppy on the ball and were not pressing the opposition constantly enough, something that would not have occurred if they played against Chelsea or Manchester City.
United are desperately in need of a creative playmaker
When looking at the games that are played against the mid-table teams, the side are missing a quality number ten, in other words a creative playmaker, someone who can link the midfield to attack and can become the heartbeat of the team. This is what the noisy neighbours have in Kevin De Bruyne, someone who is seen as one of the best players in the league and in Europe, who has the capability of creating chances from anywhere on the pitch and is right now on 10 league assists with 16 chances created.
It will not be easy for United to find a De Bruyne of their own, but the best playmaker they currently have is a 31-year-old Juan Mata, who is definitely passed his best and is not able to play on a regular basis due to his lack pace and energy. Until the board show their hunger in buying someone like Christian Eriksen or James Maddison in the January window, the side will be stuck with Fred and Scott McTominay, who do not have the intelligence and the creativity to be seen as a playmaker.
Mason Greenwood has to start in the league games soon or later
He may not have had the ideal introduction into the team and the opportunity to slowly integrate into the starting line-up, however, Mason Greenwood has delivered on nearly every occasion that Solskjaer has brought him on from the bench. From the games in the Europa League to now at home to Everton, the teenager has come up with the goods and has shown he deserves more game time.
With Anthony Martial and Daniel James being ineffective when it comes to breaking down a deep defensive block, the manager and the team could possibly have a solution in Greenwood, who has the high level of intelligence and the smooth movement on and off the ball as well as his remarkable finishing to be the game changer, which is something that United are poorly missing at the moment.