In what was one of the most up and down, helter-skelter matches of the Premier League season, Everton went into Old Trafford and produced a high energy, gutsy effort. Buoyed by the performances of elder statesmen Phil Jagielka and Gareth Barry, the Blues managed to escape with a point.
Ronald Koeman made several notable changes to his side for this one, bringing in Gareth Barry and Kevin Mirallas for Matthew Pennington and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The return to a back 4 formation was a welcome sight for most fans after the dud Everton threw up at Anfield on Saturday.
Koeman’s formation choice, at least in defense, proved to be a good one for much of the match. Jagielka, Mason Holgate, and Ashley Williams all had moments of individual brilliance on the night that helped keep United off the scoresheet until very late.
Jagielka, though, stood out above all, turning back the clock with an incredible match at both ends of the field. Everton earned a corner in the 22nd minute, which Ashley Williams headed down into the path of the Blues’ captain. With his back to goal and Marcos Rojo draped all over him, Jagielka somehow managed to flick the ball backwards, through David De Gea’s legs, and into the net.
Later in the first half, “Jags” made a crucial tackle on Marcus Rashford, and followed that up with a block on Marouane Fellaini, all in the same sequence. Jagielka’s play will have been an encouragement to the club after Ramiro Funes Mori underwent knee surgery in the days leading up to the match.
It was perhaps inevitable that Everton wouldn’t be able to keep up their frenetic pace. As the game drew on, Manchester United enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, and thus scoring chances, too.
Everton resorted to some desperate defending in the second half, and their tackling drew the ire of United, particularly Ashley Young, who was yellow carded after a rough tackle on Kevin Mirallas that seemed borne at least somewhat out of revenge.
As United crept closer to Joel Robles’ net, the Blues’ bunker mentality saw multiple chances open up on the counterattack. Romelu Lukaku fell prey to multiple bad decisions, however, twice choosing to take a shot rather than lay the ball off to Ross Barkley or Kevin Mirallas.
Speaking of Robles, he was outstanding on the night, particularly following up his poor play at Liverpool. The Spanish keeper made a handful of eye-popping saves, including one with his fingertips on what would have been an absolute screamer by Ander Herrera.
Joel spent some time down on the pitch after falling into the goalpost, but was able to continue. He also picked up a yellow card for what appeared to be dissent leveled at referee Neil Swarbrick. It was an eventful night for Joel, to say the least.
Despite all their efforts, the Blues were ultimately unable to withstand the United onslaught. In the game’s dying moments, Ashley Williams tried to put a diving header on a shot from Luke Shaw. He missed, and struck the ball with an outstretched arm. Swarbrick issued the required red card, and Ibrahimovic made no mistake from the spot. 1-1.
It’s hard to ever complain about coming away from Old Trafford with a result, but if you’re Everton, you might feel like this was a missed opportunity. United couldn’t finish chances to save their lives, and the counterattack was open all night long.
Either way, it was a massively improved performance from Saturday. 7th place and Europa League qualification look increasingly likely for the Blues.