An hour from the first whistle it wasn’t looking good for Everton. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Djibril Sidibe had taken ill last night and were not fit to play today. Duncan Ferguson’s starting lineup looked oddly unbalanced with a midfield of Tom Davies, Alex Iwobi and Bernard, with a five-man backline behind them. What would the Blues do with that side?
Just a minute in the interim manager’s plan became quite clear - it was still a 4-4-2, but with Mason Holgate stepping up into the central defensive midfielder role. The Blues started the game in a similar manner to last weekend against Chelsea, ceding possession to the opponents, defending with discipline and staying organized.
After a flurry of half chances the Blues looked to have dulled their hosts’ ardour and then struck from a corner. The hosts hung out their goalie David De Gea out to dry, letting Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Yerry Mina challenge him unopposed, and the Spaniard fluffed his punch, the ball ricocheting off Victor Lindelof and over the line.
The second half was basically more of the same as Everton tried to frustrate the hosts when not in possession, using the long ball and the counter attack when with the ball. The hosts had their half-chances, but the Blues looked just as likely to score as did the Red Devils for most of the second half.
With the minutes ticking by Big Dunc showed he was going to go big or go home, taking off the flagging Bernard and bringing on Moise Kean. The Italian striker went up alongside DCL and Richarlison moved into the left midfield after that.
It was no surprise really when United equalized, they had been knocking on the door for some time and when Mason Greenwood found some space to fire past Jordan Pickford right near the post. At that point it looked like the hosts were a good bet for the win, but then Ferguson showed up with a couple of substitutions that will certainly set the tongues wagging.
Moise Kean came on for Bernard, conceded a couple of freekicks in the defensive half on the right, and looked industrious enough. Then bizarrely, 18 minutes later and with just minutes left to play, Ferguson hooked him and sent on Oumar Niasse. Kean didn’t believe the referee’s board when it went up with his number, and honestly neither did we. The Italian striker looked furious and walked straight down the tunnel - what will come of this now?
(UPDATE: Here’s Big Dunc’s explanation for the sub)
Duncan Ferguson explains why he subbed off Moise Kean after 18 minutes on the pitch. pic.twitter.com/AY5iW3LS9u— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) December 15, 2019
Anyway, the final result of 1-1 was probably the fairest on the day, a point to each side for their industry.