Six things we learned as Manchester United draw with Everton

Manchester United have missed the chance to go top of the Premier League after drawing 1-1 with Everton.

Anthony Martial’s goal wasn’t enough to win the game against Rafa Benitez’s side due to Andros Townsend’s equaliser.

Here is a look at five things we learned from the match…

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Solskjaer goes back to 4-2-3-1

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went for a 4-3-3 system against Villarreal in midweek and United looked too open to the counter attack.

Fred was in the side ahead of Paul Pogba here as Solskjaer reverted back to his tried and tested 4-2-3-1.

Demarai Gray was still able to find space between the lines at times, but overall there was more control in the first half but still a lack of invention.

The debate over whether Fred and Scott McTominay are both required in midfield will rumble on, and Solskjaer brought Paul Pogba on for the Brazilian with United in search of a winning goal after 70 minutes.

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Ronaldo is droppable

It’s logical that at the age of 36, Cristiano Ronaldo may not play every game and this was the first Premier League match he’s been on the bench for since his return.

Edinson Cavani deserved a start, and this was an insight into how Solskjaer will manage his squad going forward.

Solskjaer is generally in the habit of making late substitutions but Ronaldo replaced Cavani on 56 minutes here.

Bruno Fernandes is seemingly the only undroppable player in forward areas for United as it stands, but ultimately the gamble to give Ronaldo some rest proved costly.

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Martial ends his drought before injury

The inclusion of Anthony Martial was perhaps even more surprising than Ronaldo being left on the bench.

Solskjaer was clearly keen to retain faith in the French international and he responded with a first goal in eight months to open the scoring.

Martial’s confidence looked low before he broke the deadlock. His dribbling was laboured and he was tentative when attacking an early header.

The BT Sport camera focused on Martial when he came onto the pitch after half-time but it looked like he was limping and wincing.

And so it proved, with Martial coming off for Jadon Sancho within 11 minutes of the interval.

That meant Martial’s afternoon ended on a sour note and he will hope that the problem is nothing serious after he scored when handed a shock chance to shine.

United pegged back at home again

United made a habit of coming from behind away from home last season. The opposite is regularly happening at home this term.

United have gone 1-0 up in three of their four home league games so far, before being pegged back each time.

The above stat has to be a concern for Solskjaer. United roared back against Leeds and Newcastle but it’s hard to score twice in every home game just to get a win.

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Sancho’s cameo was bright

Sancho was charged with adding urgency to United’s attack when going in search of a winner.

It’s clear his confidence is growing and there was one particularly impressive moment when he left Ben Godfrey for dead down the left flank.

A first United goal still eludes him – and a late opportunity was fluffed – but the signs are good and Solskjaer underlined his faith in the winger yesterday.

This was another step in the right direction despite another underwhelming collective team performance and a poor result.

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United miss chance to go top

United went into this game knowing that if they won, they would go top of the league.

With Liverpool and Manchester City facing each other tomorrow, it was an opportunity to make up ground on at least one title rival.

United started like a side with the bit between their teeth before the performance meandered and the flatness of the crowd reflected that.

In the end, there was to be no escape act like the midweek dramatics against Villarreal and this was a big chance missed.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.