Manchester United’s weaknesses in midfield were exposed once again by an Everton side that were missing their two best players.
Rafael Benitez came to Old Trafford without Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison.
But he did have two of his summer signings Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray who caused United all sorts of problems.
The former Liverpool manager also had a midfield duo in Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure who contributed to all parts of the Toffees’ performance.
Doucoure impresses at Old Trafford
United started brightly and Scott McTominay and Fred were knocking the ball about nicely and there looked to be a nice tempo to our play.
But the visitors started to get a stranglehold on proceedings and restored parity through Townsend.
Owen Hargreaves has spoken openly about how he felt Sir Alex Ferguson would have handled Fred’s involvement in the Everton goal, but as impressive as Gray was in the build up, it was Doucoure’s desire to get forward which gave the counter attack that additional impetus.
With United scrambling to get back, it was Doucoure’s willingness to go beyond Gray that created the space for Townsend to capitalise.
But it wasn’t Doucoure’s first foray forward, with Allan sat as the holding midfielder, the former Watford man who was signed for £20m (Transfermarkt) was given the licence to get forward.
In the 25th minute, the 28-year-old intercepted a sloppy Fred pass and then he set his team off on a counter attack after shrugging off the Brazilian.
The Frenchman continued his run forward and cut the ball back to Salomon Rondon, but his effort was well blocked by Victor Lindelof.
In the 33rd minute after breaking the Doucoure and Allan press, a rare Bruno Fernandes mistake gifted possession back to Everton and Gray waltzed past Fred and McTominay far too easily before forcing a good save from David de Gea.
It was only three minutes later that Doucoure set his side off on another attack after knocking the ball over Edinson Cavani into Townsend.
He continued his run into the box which McTominay failed to pick up and after being picked out by Townsend his goal bound effort was blocked by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
In the 84th minute, Doucoure was pressing Wan-Bissaka which eventually resulted in the former France under-21 international winning a corner following a breakdown in communication between McTominay and Mason Greenwood.
Doucoure shows qualities that United lack
Doucoure’s performance was in the mould of Yaya Toure, winning the ball back for his team in midfield and then driving forward with a lung-busting run and putting the opposition on the back foot.
He had two shots, created two chances for team mates, the same as Fernandes and completed one dribble.
But he is also more than capable of sniffing out danger for his side and fulfilling his defensive duties.
In the clash at Old Trafford, Doucoure made three tackles, two interceptions and one clearance (WhoScored).
He did all that whilst only having 48 touches, Fred and McTominay in comparison had 79 and 81 touches respectfully.
Doucoure had a greater influence on the game than United’s pairing combined and showed Solskjaer what box-to-box midfield qualities his team drastically lacks.
He now has two goals and four assists from his seven Premier League matches so far this season.
He probably isn’t going to be on United’s midfield shortlist, but he was certainly the best player on the pitch at Old Trafford.
United had an unbelievable summer transfer window, but our inability to sign a dominant midfielder could come back to haunt us once again.
Until that midfielder is signed, we may have to rely on individual moments of quality to carry this team’s pursuit for major trophies.
We desperately need a quality holding and dominant midfielder to glue the rest of the team together.