Manchester United vs Everton: Five things we learned as Zlatan Ibrahimovic denies Toffees victory at the death

Samuel Lovett
Zlatan steps up to equalise for United: Getty

Manchester United drew yet another league match at Old Trafford - but the overriding emotion at the final whistle was relief rather than frustration after Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck a stoppage-time penalty against Everton.

Home toil has become a familiar theme for Jose Mourinho during his first season in the hot-seat and Ronald Koeman's men looked set to compound matters in Tuesday's Premier League match.

Phil Jagielka's hooked first-half effort put Everton on course for a win that would have seen them usurp United in fifth place, only for second-half pressure to finally pay dividends in stoppage time as Ibrahimovic's penalty secured a dramatic 1-1 draw.

Here are five things we learned...

Everton's heroic defence spurned with last kick of the game

After the disappointment of their Merseyside defeat, Everton’s defence showed what it is capable of tonight. Even in spite of Ashley Williams' red card, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's subsequent penalty goal, the Welshman and his English counterpart struck a formidable partnership at the heart of the visitors’ backline. Until his reckless decision in the 94th minute, Williams had excelled in his reading of the game, putting in numerous vital interceptions to break down United’s attacks, and asserted himself with confidence under the high balls. Phil Jagielka was similarly sublime. On two separate occasions he showcased pace and intelligence to prevent Marcus Rashford from finding target at close quarters, keeping Everton in the game. Both individuals played with heart and grit, and deserved to walk away from tonight’s game with three points to their name. It wasn't to be, however, and Williams will rightly rue a decision that cost his side two precious points.

Williams in action for Everton

End of the road in sight for Rooney

Wayne Rooney’s struggles this season have been well documented. Despite cementing his place in Manchester United history as the club’s all-time top goalscorer, the captain has ultimately failed to convince Jose Mourinho of his intrinsic worth to the side. With Ibrahimovic and others bearing United’s offensive responsibilities, Rooney has slowly drifted to the periphery of Mourinho's squad – so much so that the former Everton player has now been linked with a return to his schoolboy club.

Rooney's time at Old Trafford is coming to an end (Getty)

Injuries have played a key role in his sad but inevitable fall from grace. A third injury in two months ruled Rooney out of tonight’s clash and, at 31, it seems that the player’s body is finally giving up on him. Rooney has not been blessed with Ibrahimovic’s fitness and it’s only a matter of time before the intensity and demands of the Premier League become too much. It’s been a glistening career that has brought him countless riches, from Premier League titles to Champions League glory, but it’s become painfully apparent that Rooney has no place in United’s next chapter.

Ibrahimovic resilience pays off

Up until the 94th minute, Ibrahimovic's return hadn't quite go on to plan. Facing a brick blue wall for much of the night, the Swede had struggled in vain to find that all-important equaliser. That’s not to say he didn't enjoy his fair share chances. Indeed, he came close to putting United ahead after just five minutes, bursting into the Everton box with menace only to squander the opportunity.

Ibrahimovic had a goal disallowed late in the game (Getty)

The 35-year-old fulfilled his creative responsibilities, too. On the 15-minute mark his dissecting ball played Marcus Rashford in behind the Everton defence, which Jagielka duly dealt with, while a low-driven ball across the mouth of the Everton goal in the 50th minute had the whole of Old Trafford on their feet. His disallowed goal, coming with 15 minutes to go, seemed to suggest this wasn't to be his night. But Williams' needless handling of the ball offered United the lifeline they had so desperately sought. Cool as ever, up stepped Ibrahimovic to snatch the equaliser and once again prove his worth to the red side of Manchester.

Mourinho starting to crack yet again

Mourinho’s habit for publicly criticising his players reached new heights this week after he all but confirmed that Luke Shaw’s career at Manchester United was over. “It is difficult for him to be on the bench. I cannot compare the way he trains [to United’s other players], the way he commits, the focus, the ambition. He is a long way behind.” (Bizarrely, this didn't step him fielding Shaw tonight.)

The pressure is on for Mourinho (Getty)

It was a similar story before kick-off tonight. Speaking in his pre-match interview, Mourinho confirmed that Henrikh Mkhitaryan had been left out of the squad on account of his disappointing performance against West Brom. "I am not happy with Mkhitaryan's performance in the last match." Hard words that will hit even harder given the public context in which they were delivered. This sort of behaviour has drawn criticism from the industry and suggests that, once again, Mourinho is reverting to type. United may remain unbeaten in 20 league games, but there’s a sense that the side remain paralysed by inertia - especially as tonight's result would indicate. With Mourinho back to his usual tricks, the pressure is certainly starting to show.

Lukaku still has plenty to learn

Romelu Lukaku may have 21 goals to his name this season, putting him top of the pile for the league’s top goal-scorers, but the Belgian striker has yet to win over his critics. Many of his performances have been marked by lethargy and the tendency to go missing, as was the case in the Merseyside derby. In comparison to his more rounded Premier League rivals, certain aspects of Lukaku’s game remain undeveloped.

Lukaku gets away from Marcos Rojo (Getty)

In those opportunities where he found the right channels against United tonight, poor decision making let him down. On multiple occasions he attempted to shoot from inside United’s final third, instead of exercising patience and waiting for other options to materialise. His hold-up play was similarly found wanting. Poor control and lapses in concentration let him down and repeatedly disrupted the rhythm of Everton’s promising attacks. There's no denying his talent, of course. For those long, searching balls over the top his strength and pace were put to great effect to place United's defence under pressure. But when push came to shove, Lukaku ultimately failed to deliver. At 23, the future remains bright but tonight’s performance confirmed the forward still has plenty to learn.

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