MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) -Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Everton in the Premier League on Saturday after Andros Townsend’s equaliser cancelled out Anthony Martial’s opener for the home side.
It was another disappointing result for United, following their home defeat to Aston Villa last week, but continued the impressive start that Everton have made under Rafael Benitez.
Both teams are on 14 points, together with leaders Liverpool who face Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer responded to the challenge of the quick turn-around from Wednesday’s Champions League win over Villarreal by starting Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Jadon Sancho on the bench -- although all three were brought on in the second half.
United began brightly, with Martial heading wide at the back post and Edinson Cavani forcing Jordan Pickford into a diving save with a firm header from a nicely floated Fred cross.
Everton though were well-organised and set up to hit on the break, and the lively Demarai Gray brought David De Gea into action with a good effort after bursting in from the left in the 34th minute.
But it was a deserved lead that United took, two minutes before the interval when Mason Greenwood, showing some excellent touches on the flank, found Bruno Fernandes who expertly fed Martial, the Frenchman’s slightly deflected shot flashing past Pickford.
Solskjaer made a double substitution in the 57th minute, bring on Ronaldo and Sancho for Martial and Cavani, but the switch did not have the desired effect of finishing the game off.
Instead, Everton hit United on the counter-attack -- breaking from a United corner with Gray outmuscling Fred on the left before finding the excellent Abdoulaye Doucoure who in turn slipped it outside to the sprinting Townsend, who fired low past the stationary De Gea.
The visitors looked to have grabbed a late winner when Tom Davies’ low ball was turned in by Yerry Mina, but United were handed a reprieve by a VAR review that right judged the Colombian to be offside.
There was a late chance for United’s Jadon Sancho, played in by a back-heel from substitute Ronaldo, but his soft shot was easily dealt with by Pickford.
One point out of six from their last two home matches is a poor return for a team hoping to be among the title challengers, as Fernandes acknowledged.
“We should win this game. We should create more chances. We should not concede that kind of goal. It’s not the first time and we have to look at our mistakes and see what we can do,” said the Portuguese midfielder.
“We don’t look at the league table at this moment but of course we should have more points. We drop points at home and we should not do that. These last two games at home was not good enough in the Premier League. If we want silverware at the end of the season we have to do much better,” he added.
But for Everton, the result was an indicator that perhaps this season they may be able to sustain a push for a European place - especially when they can call upon currently injured forwards Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison.
“We are doing well. We have some problems with injuries and still the team is working really hard and reacting really well,” said Benitez.
“You can see the team spirit and the fans will appreciate that - and the players will appreciate the support of the fans,” added the former Liverpool and Newcastle manager.
Reporting by Simon Evans, Editing by Hugh Lawson
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