The drama was all too familiar for Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday night as they were left to grieve over poor goalkeeping and defending as they conceded a 95th-minute equaliser to draw 3-3 with Everton.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reckon on his players to go out and put on a ‘fitting performance’ to honour the victims of the Munich air disaster 63 years on and, his forwards stepped up to the challenge as the haunting image of the Busby Babes trembled in the wind over the empty seats in the Stretford End, defensively they let themselves down.
United scored three on Saturday night to go with the hatful as they hammered past the Saints but they threw the win away twice, letting Everton score two goals in the space of three minutes early in the second half to level the scores once and then conceding a last-minute equaliser to Dominic Calvert-Lewin into added time towards the end of the match.
The 3-3 draw meant that United failed to mount pressure on Manchester City at the top of the table as Pep Guardiola’s side prepare for their showdown with Liverpool on Sunday afternoon. This draw was two points lost for United, not a point gained.
It means City are two points clear at the top with two games in hand. The tempo, once again, has been sucked from United’s toils.
Some of the blame for their downfall to close out a win against Ancelotti and his team has to be brought down at David de Gea, who should have performed better with both Everton’s first and third goals.
There was a time when De Gea was regularly the team’s hero and best player. That time has gone. His place, certainly, must be under some serious threat from Dean Henderson.
It was a bitter end to an emotionally charged day for United on the 63rd anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster.
When Scott McTominay settles United 3-2 up with a header in front of the Stretford End where a banner was covered across the empty seats showing a picture of the Busby Babes and the words We’ll Never Die, it had looked like a fitting tribute. But then the script changed.
United failed to clear a Lucas Digne free kick in the fifth and final minute of added time and when it drizzled through to Calvert-Lewin, he shoved it past De Gea, whose challenge was uncertain and weak.
United were architects of their downfall but Everton earns plenty of credit for their tenacity and endurance, too. The draw moved them into sixth place. It does not compliment them.
United’s preparations for the match was on hold due to an alert at the Lowry Hotel, the residence of former manager Jose Mourinho, and their preferred pre-match venue.
As soon as they entered after lunchtime, the fire services were alerted to an issue in the hotel kitchen and arrived in force but the hotel was not evacuated and the problem was detected as a false alarm.
The thrashing of Southampton, a result that matched the Premier League record, had been quite a way for United to launch back into form after hiccups against Sheffield United and Arsenal and Solskjaer only made one change from the side that had thrashed Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team, replacing Fred with Paul Pogba.
The game had begun while replays of Tomas Soucek’s late sending off at Craven Cottage were still showing on screens around Old Trafford.
It was a ridiculous decision by referee Mike Dean but as United and Everton engaged in their early battles, Bruno Fernandes screamed in pain when he was fouled innocuously by Tom Davies.
There was very little contact but, enabled by his cryonics of the United midfielder, Jon Moss gave a free-kick.
Fernandes is far from alone in that kind of response but maybe there will come a time when we ask players to take some form of accountability for their actions and the repercussions they cause for their fellow professionals.
The action finally accelerated midway through the half and when a rare Everton attack down the United right was cleared, the home team counter-attacked swiftly.
Mason Greenwood, who had already played the pass of the game minutes earlier, strolled past two players as if they were not there but as the goal beckoned, he pulled his right-foot shot harmlessly across the area.
A minute later, United was ahead. They worked the ball down the right again and when Fernandes laid the ball back to Rashford near the touchline, Rashford looked up and saw Edinson Cavani at the back post.
Rashford’s cross was perfectly impeded. It sailed over the head of Michael Keane and Cavani had the simplest of tasks to nod it down and past Robin Olsen.
United was dealt a blow six minutes before half time when Pogba pulled up in the middle of the pitch, grabbing his right thigh. He hobbled away down the tunnel and was replaced by Fred.
It was a cruel mess for Solskjaer at a time when he has begun to produce something with approaching steady performances from the France World Cup winner.
On the hit of half-time, United went further ahead with a goal that took the breath away with its combination of interest and sheer brilliance.
The ball was played to Fernandes 35 yards out but he let it run on to Aaron Wan-Bissaka with a casual flick of his right foot. Wan-Bissaka played it back to Fernandes and he took a touch before twisting a fierce dipping shot round Davies, over Olsen and into the net.
There was still time for Everton to snatch a lifeline before the interval but they could not quite grasp it.
Calvert-Lewin ran on to a free ball and advanced on De Gea but even though he hit his left-foot shot cleanly and past the left boot of the United goalkeeper, it rolled just wide of the far post and the chance was gone.
United started the second half strongly and Luke Shaw forced a diving save from Olsen after he played a slick one-two with Cavani but four minutes after the break, Everton were back in the game.
Davies smashed strongly from midfield and played a ball inside Harry Maguire for Calvert-Lewin to run on to.
Calvert-Lewin was pushed wide and could only shove a cross-shot at De Gea. De Gea should have caught it but he poked it out weakly and straight into the path of Abdoulaye Doucoure, who fired it over the line.
United was terrified. So stunned that they conceded another goal almost instantly. Their defending was partly to blame again.
They failed to clear a cross from the left and then allowed the ball to be played to James Rodriguez 12 yards out.
James has one of the sweetest left feet in the game and he used it to good effect.
He brought the ball down and, flawless skill smashed low past De Gea into the corner of the net.
Rashford should have restored United’s lead after an hour but his effort dink over the goalkeeper was blocked.
It took ten more minutes, and the substitution of James, for them to seize the advantage again and this time it was the Everton defence at fault.
Shaw curled a free kick from the left touchline into the heart of the box with purpose and pace but the Everton defenders allowed McTominay to rise above them and flick it goalwards.
It was not a powerful header and Olsen should have saved it but the goalkeeper seemed to mistime his dive and let the ball to escape his grasp.
He and his team were reprieved by Calvert-Lewin’s last-ditch equaliser.