Premier League - Late collapse deals title blow to United

Sun, 22 Apr 14:28:00 2012

An extraordinary game at Old Trafford saw Manchester United's title challenge falter, possibly fatally, when they conceded twice in the final seven minutes to draw 4-4 with Everton.

Man Utd 4 Everton 4

A remarkable second half at Old Trafford - featuring a repertoire of brilliant goals - concluded with United throwing away a 4-2 lead as Nikica Jelavic and then Steven Pienaar silenced Old Trafford by drawing Everton level.

At half time it was only 1-1 following goals from Wayne Rooney and Jelavic during a rather tentative first 45 minutes from United, but the game exploded in the second period as Old Trafford was treated to six further goals, the first two of which came in three minutes from Danny Welbeck and Nani as United turned on the style.

Marouane Fellaini's fine volley looked to be nothing but a consolation when Rooney restored United's two-goal lead with his 180th goal for United, taking him clear of George Best and Dennis Violett in fourth place in United's all-time list, but a dramatic conclusion to proceedings saw United reined in by a spirited Everton as their defence crumbled.

The result means United are now only three points clear of Manchester City at the top of the table following their rivals' victory at Wolves later on Sunday, and if Roberto Mancini's side win their remaining three games of the season - including the Manchester derby at home on April 30th - then they will be named Premier League champions.

United's solitary change from the 4-0 win over Aston Villa last weekend was to replace Ashley Young with Nani, a high profile decision given Sir Alex Ferguson admitted this week he had had words with the England international after Young was subjected to sustained criticism for two dives in recent games.

Everton, meanwhile, were missing highly influential left-back Leighton Baines due to a hamstring injury, but Pienaar returned to the starting XI having been ineligible for last weekend's FA Cup semi-final defeat at the hands of Liverpool.

Nani was United's main threat in the opening exchanges - going close with two smart shots from the left side of the box - but Everton started the better side and created the first clear-cut opportunity after five minutes when Leon Osman played in Jelavic with a clever little pass and the Croatian striker forced David De Gea into action with a firm drive.

United were guilty of a somewhat lethargic performance in Sunday's early kick-off, while by contrast Everton were a model of application, eschewing a negative approach to take the game to the hosts and break regularly with intent, with Fellaini a combative influence in the centre of midfield.

Another midfielder - Darron Gibson, returning to the club he departed in January - shot wide from range before United were then left exposed in the air to go 1-0 down after 33 minutes. Tony Hibbert swung in a deep, deep cross from the right and Jelavic was free at the back post to cushion a perfect header back over De Gea from the tightest of angles.

The goal appeared to shake United out of their stupor and the league leaders almost mustered an immediate response when the ball popped out to Paul Scholes following a corner and his shot took two deflections before being stopped by a fine reaction save from Howard.

On 41 minutes they did carve out an equaliser. Michael Carrick poked a pass out to Patrice Evra under pressure and the Frenchman slipped the ball quickly to Nani. He cut back onto his right foot before producing a glorious cross to find Rooney, the striker getting in behind Phil Neville to convert with a header from close range.

Rooney had only previously scored twice in 11 league games against his former club, but after netting for the sixth home league game in succession he drew level with the great Best and Violett on 179 career goals for United.

Strike partner Welbeck had looked bright in patches during the first half but after the break he came to exert a much bigger influence on the game, putting United in front after 57 minutes with a brilliant finish.

Though Everton were angered by referee Mike Jones's refusal to stop play for an injury to Pienaar having done so when Evans was down in an incident in the first half, United played on and when the ball bounced into the path of Welbeck on the edge of the box he made space with a neat dummy before caressing the ball into the top corner.

Welbeck's strike instigated a frantic, end-to-end period in which four goals were scored in the space of 12 minutes. Nani was the next to get on the scoresheet on the hour mark: United constructed a lovely passing move that culminated with Welbeck releasing the winger with a lovely little reverse pass and Nani produced an equally delightful finish when dinking the ball over the advancing Howard.

Where Nani favoured finesse, Fellaini's reply after 67 minutes relied on a potent combination of technique and power as he met a cross from Hibbert, again, with a well-executed volley that flew past De Gea and into the bottom corner.

Pienaar then called De Gea into action with a firm drive but just as the game threatened to spiral out of control for United, Rooney restored a modicum of calm with his second of the afternoon. Welbeck was central to proceedings again as he first spun away following a lovely dummy to collect Rooney's pass, and then squared for his team-mate to tap the ball in past Howard as Old Trafford was treated to another goal of the highest quality.

United appeared destined for a 13th win in 15 Premier League games but remarkably Everton's enterprise was rewarded with two late goals, and only after Evra had spurned the chance to put the game beyond doubt when striking the post with a header.

On 83 minutes, the presence of Fellaini caused havoc in the United box and the ball bounced to the unmarked Jelavic, who continued his impressive form since joining the club in January when sweeping the ball home from adjacent to the penalty spot.

Still Everton were not finished, and on 85 minutes they were level when United found themselves cut open once again. Neville played the ball into Fellaini and the big Belgian spun in the box before playing a beautiful square pass for Pienaar, who slotted the ball to the side of De Gea to make it 4-4.

With the title swinging the way of City, United piled forward for a winner in injury time and almost had it when Rio Ferdinand saw a thunderous effort tipped over the bar by Howard. However, Everton held on for the most remarkable of points, and a result that may yet see United deposed as champions of England.

An extraordinary game at Old Trafford saw Manchester United's Premier League title challenge falter following a 4-4 draw against Everton. - 2

Tom Adams - @tomEurosport / Eurosport

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  1. hahahaha

    From tokmokyrgyz, on Sat 28 Apr 17:20
  2. i thought this was a place to mass debate issues close­ to your hearts... but i now know its a flirting page­ for Victor and Paul .. just get a room will ya both­ xxxxx

    From Gary, on Sat 28 Apr 13:32
  3. Ferdinand is apparently calling Piquet at Barcelona to­ tell him all about how to deal with Drogba. Some people­ have just no shame at all....Any patriot of his country­ would be proud for another Premier League club to­ compete in Cl, but clearly not this guy...

    From Edward, on Mon 23 Apr 22:19
  4. enjoyed the match proud to have been at Old Trafford­ good close footie "come on you blues".

    From Robert, on Mon 23 Apr 21:01
  5. when ever ferdinand predicts an outcome man utd go tits­ up

    From Ken, on Mon 23 Apr 20:26
  6. excuses are not worth 3 points. I don't hate Man U­ but I love fair play for the rest of the Prem teams.

    From David M, on Mon 23 Apr 20:05
  7. I am a United fan but I think too many supporters have­ not given Fergie thye great credit he deserves this­ season.Vidic,Fletcher Anderson out virtually all­ season.Loads of other injuries.He has blooded alot of­ young players and that makes it extra hard to win­ matches.United and City have dominated the­ League,People saty they have been inconsitent.That is­ rubbish check the number of points they have in the­ Premier.Only city are near.In case people dont know the­ Premier League is the hardest one in the world to win­ and who are the current favourites to win it.Check the­ number of goals we have scored.If that is a poor season­ I think it is because too many fans think success is­ easy

    From Harry, on Mon 23 Apr 19:12
  8. The ref should have his bank statement made public­ before the game and after the game.

    From , on Mon 23 Apr 18:47
  9. everton all the way [from a chelsea fan]

    From shana, on Mon 23 Apr 18:01
  10. Football is meaningless and vacuous,and is watched by­ immigrant loving brainwashed morons.

    From simon, on Mon 23 Apr 17:45
  11. Joshua so many times United have won matches because of­ Fergies attacking flair so dont be too hard on Fergie.2­ Months ago we would have been delighted to go to City­ with a three point lead.Dont forget we beat them in the­ FA Cup.Dont be too downhearted because United have had­ a wonderful consistent season in the League.People may­ be thinking City will win but if United do win and they­ may well do it will virtually game set and Match for­ United.Its Fergie Joshua just trust the man who has­ proved himself the greatest ever Manager.Your tears­ will be tears of joy Trust my judgement

    From Harry, on Mon 23 Apr 15:55
  12. From a Man U fan, as much as I hate to say it well­ played to Everton, they focused till the end. You could­ tell from the celebrations after our 4th goal we­ thought it was over. Fergie's questionable call to­ bring on another striker when 4-2 up probably­ didn't help us either. But, at the same time,­ we're still 3 points ahead and it's still ours­ to lose. Also with City still to play Newcastle at­ St.James's Park, who's to say City won't­ slip up then? ... Anyway, makes for an awesome run in­ to the title just hope the best team wins.

    From joshua, on Mon 23 Apr 15:43
  13. Questions.Which team is watched by most fans on TV ?­ Which team has the biggest attenadances ? Which team­ has won more Premier Titles than all the other clubs­ together ? Which team play in so many exciting matches­ have consistently won Trophies ? Which team are second­ in the Fair Play League ? Which team may yet again win­ the Premier Title ? Which team have had an incredible­ injury list yet have still had a fantastic season ?­ Final clue in case you are still stuck ,Which team has­ only had one player sent off ? Which team has got Wayne­ Rooney playing for them and Wayne has not received any­ bookings ?,Which team has so many people who are so­ jealous of them ? Ah Yes Manchester United

    From Harry, on Mon 23 Apr 15:12
  14. Mark(899) agree entirely Webb will ref the match.­ Ferguson's probably counting the cash as I type.­ Boring Harry also back again I see, the residential­ home has him sitting at computer, strapped in for­ safety.

    From dd, on Mon 23 Apr 14:50
  15. Of course people are jealous of the club who have won­ so many Trophies ans are the wealthiest in the world­ United score so many goals and dont let us forget that­ yesterday was a great game.Check how many points they­ have and compare their goals tally with Liverpool­ United have had so many injuries but Fergie has kept­ them in the Title race amazinglly.City also have­ playerd great.Now the task really for City is they must­ beat United and Newcastle.I would not say that is a­ formality would you ?

    From Harry, on Mon 23 Apr 14:42
  16. manure even more EXCUSES

    From take it as red, on Mon 23 Apr 14:39
  17. Yahoo, Mon Apr 23 5.39? I thought we used GMT in­ England? Its 13.54 according to my clock!

    From Tony77, on Mon 23 Apr 13:54
  18. Sour Grapes comes to mind here, from people on this­ forum! What knobend was it that said we (United­ supporters) wonder why were hated? We (United­ Supporters) KNOW why were hated, because all you other­ supporters cant even get a wiff of what its like to­ Win! And you just assume that all United supporters­ have jumped on the Bandwaggon because your so bitter!­ All Teams play dirty and get away with it, especially­ Liverpool and Chelsea! United will still come out on­ top!

    From Tony77, on Mon 23 Apr 13:39
  19. fergies face like a smacked bottom,lol.All the pot­ hunters look like they could be turning up at Man.City­ next year,in fact,knowing them,probably after the game­ next week when fergies flops get thrashed.Well done­ Everton and we all hope Manchester City have a great­ time on their tour with the premiership trophy,of­ course there won't be any manu pot hunter fans­ there,they will all be back in their home towns long­ before that.The tide has turned and uniteds cheating­ luck has now run out,everyones wise to them and they­ won't win without it.Good riddance to bad­ attitude,prossie and sister-in-law lovers.

    From Oosthat, on Mon 23 Apr 13:34
  20. Dont get too excited all you manutd haters, its not­ over yet. We will still do the job at Etihiad.

    From Manutd1985, on Mon 23 Apr 13:34
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