Marouane Fellaini costs United dear against Everton

Former Everton midfielder concedes late penalty as Ronald Koeman’s side earn a point

 

Everton 1 Manchester United 1

Just when Jose Mourinho had cause to believe Manchester United’s season was turning for the better, another self-inflicted stalemate stifled progress once again. His team were on course for only a second win in eight Premier League matches until Marouane Fellaini gifted his former club Everton a late penalty that Leighton Baines duly converted. It is now four draws in five for Mourinho’s men. Their limitations are not confined to Old Trafford.

The United manager labelled Everton’s 87th-minute penalty award “a nonsense” but that description surely applied to Mourinho’s claim that his team had played well at Goodison Park and merited much more than one solitary point. There was slight contact between Fellaini and Idrissa Gana Gueye, enough to convince referee Michael Oliver, and United’s grievance was that a game they should have had under control was allowed to slip from their grasp.

Baines’ equaliser was also a reprieve for Maarten Stekelenburg who had enabled the visitors to take a slender interval lead. Neither team had posed a threat until the Everton goalkeeper’s rush of blood gifted United the lead and Zlatan Ibrahimovic his fourth goal in three league games.

It was a committed contest, a little too committed in Marcos Rojo’s case, but there was a painful lack of quality in the final third throughout the first half. The deficiency would have come as a greater surprise to Mourinho than Ronald Koeman given United’s impressive midweek display against West Ham United in the EFL Cup and Everton’s ineffective form of late.

The hosts responded to their manager’s call for more aggression but were left with a legitimate grievance when Rojo crossed that particular line with a dangerous two-footed tackle on Gueye. The ball was there to be won by both players after a loose touch from Ander Herrera left them challenging for a 50-50 but, while Gueye executed a clean tackle, the Argentina international lunged in with both feet, studs showing, and caught both ball and man. It looked a red card offence in real time but the referee opted only for yellow despite having an unobstructed view. Rojo was fortunate in the extreme and the same was true of Gueye, who was able to continue.

Oliver had set a lenient tone earlier on when failing to book Gareth Barry for a late foul from behind on Ibrahimovic. Not that one error justified a second and Barry, Everton’s stand-in captain with Phil Jagielka unsurprisingly dropped to the bench, went in the book for persistent misconduct inside half an hour.

No red for Rojo looked set to be the only first half incident of note when United conjured a breakthrough out of nothing. Mourinho’s team had lacked the precision and urgency of their midweek display - it may not tally with recent obituaries but the suspended Wayne Rooney was missed - yet edged ahead when Stekelenburg managed to turn a routine long ball into a glorious invitation for Ibrahimovic. The United centre-forward set off in pursuit of Matteo Darmian’s pass over the top alongside Ramiro Funes Mori. Inexplicably, so did the Everton keeper and the Swede seized the invitation to lob Stekelenburg outside his penalty area, the ball striking the crossbar and crossing the line before Funes Mori was able to clear.

Since that remarkable performance at Manchester City in October , when he saved two penalties and produced several other outstanding stops, Stekelenburg’s form has regressed badly and this was another costly error that may force Koeman to reconsider his options in January. The setback, however, galvanised Everton after the restart and they merited a late equaliser from the penalty spot having pressed United to much greater effect.

Herrera was inches from extending the visitors’ lead when he collected Michael Carrick’s clipped cross to the back post, controlled, and struck the bar from close range. Otherwise David de Gea was the busier goalkeeper as Everton worked prodigiously on and off the ball in the second half, refusing to allow the loss of Seamus Coleman and Yannick Bolasie to injury in quick succession to disrupt their momentum.

De Gea blocked a Kevin Mirallas effort with his knee when the Belgian broke easily beyond Rojo and Darmian, saved Gueye’s long distance shot and also a tame header from Enner Valencia when the lively substitute should have done better from close range. But it was former Evertonian Fellaini who contributed most to the home side’s point with a calamitous late cameo. Fellaini had been on the pitch less than two minutes when he clipped Gueye as the Everton midfielder collected Barry’s ball and attempted to spin away inside the area.

Oliver had no hesitation pointing to the spot and Baines drilled his kick low beyond de Gea’s right hand into the bottom corner. Guardian Service

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