Everton 3 -3 Manchester United
A draw at Everton might not be the worst result, given Manchester United’s recent record at Goodison Park. United were 3-1 up in injury time and though the inexplicable surrender in injury time was simply unexplainable, it was not, as some United bloggers described it, “a disgrace”.
Darren Fletcher, Nani and Dimitar Berbatov had overturned an early deficit to put the visitors into a seemingly unassailable lead but a remarkable late surge from the Toffees registered an unlikely result.
United had dropped Wayne Rooney with the unofficial line being that his wife, Coleen, had suffered some bad news when her unwell sister had suffered a stroke. It was just as well for the beleaguered front man with the press on his back after front page stories all week; last season’s runners up could not pin their complacency on his absence.
Mikel Arteta went close early on, once with a free kick that clipped the cross bar, and secondly with an effort deflected wide. John O’Shea hit the bar, too, on the 15 minute mark, after United had registered their first real spell of possession. Tim Howard had to be alert just after the hour to stop a free kick teed up by Nani to Paul Scholes, then to deny Ryan Giggs after clever work by Darren Fletcher.
Less than a minute after the Giggs opportunity, however, the hosts took the lead, when Evra’s speculative attempted clearance was ill timed and Mikel Arteta broke free. The Spaniard’s shot was well saved by van der Sar, but Leon Osman cleverly passed it to Steven Pienaar who easily converted to give Everton the lead. The response took less than 4 minutes as Giggs’ crossfield pass was met then crossed by Nani and finished by Darren Fletcher for the equaliser. Berbatov was close to giving the visitors a half time advantage but his volley from a Giggs pass went wide.
Nemanja Vidic gave United the lead less than two minutes into the second half; when a corner routine didn’t work initially, Nani’s ball on the second phase was headed across goal into the far corner by the Serbian. An Everton corner led to the third goal, with a Neville back heel finding Scholes and Scholes’ raking pass playing in Berbatov. The Bulgarian’s clever finish seemed to finish the game.
Scholes COULD have after an interchange with Nani but blasted over; Leon Osman had a drive well saved by van der Sar, too, before injury time dawned and United’s away day curse struck again. A spell in the last 10 minutes at Craven Cottage embarrassed United but this was undoubtedly worse; with just 3 minutes given to the visitors to endure and no real wave of attacking threat to knock down their resistance, injury time saw the Red Devils inexplicably surrender after almost 90 minutes of constant exemplary work from the centre backs. Baines was chief instigator with the crosses that destroyed United’s advantage; the first finding Cahill, who duly headed in, and the second finding Arteta, whose finish deflected in off Scholes, with the defence surely realising they could have done far better on both occasions.
Drawing at Goodison is a point up on last year, as was the recent draw at Fulham. But with a shocking surrender in the last 5 minutes of both games, United have found themselves with a lot of ground to cover before September has even ended. The hopes for a record 19th title while the clubs best ever players, Scholes and Giggs, are in the squad, are becoming increasingly unlikely.
Ratings : van der Sar 7, Neville 6, *Vidic 8, Evans 6, Evra 5 (Park), Nani 7 , Fletcher 7, Scholes 7, O’Shea 5, Giggs 7, Berbatov 7