Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s last-gasp penalty salvaged a point for Manchester United as the Reds were held 1-1 by Everton at Old Trafford.
The striker, on his return from suspension, converted the spot-kick in the 94th minute after the visitors’ centre-back Ashley Williams was sent off for handball. His dramatic equaliser rescued the Reds after Phil Jagielka had hooked home to give the Toffees the lead in the first half. After this second successive draw in the space of four days at home, Jose Mourinho’s men are now unbeaten in 20 Premier League games.
Insisting he will continue to field his strongest available team whilst a top-four place is still achievable, Mourinho stayed true to his word by making only three changes from Saturday’s stalemate against West Brom as Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera returned from domestic bans and Daley Blind came in at left-back, with March’s Player of the Month, Antonio Valencia, rested.
As the Reds made an encouraging start, Ibrahimovic almost announced his return with an early goal in the fifth minute but the no.9 was denied by a fine defensive block by Williams after finding a way through the middle.
Jesse Lingard, who won United’s Goal of the Month for March with a 25-yard screamer against Middlesbrough, almost matched that award-winning effort with a sizzling strike from a similar distance which flew past the post.
Marcus Rashford then burst through onto a fine Ibrahimovic pass and fired wide of the post but the linesman’s flag was raised for offside.
At the other end, Everton had barely threatened until an effort by Kevin Mirallas was kept out by the legs of David De Gea. But from the resulting corner, the Toffees took the lead against the run of play when captain Jagielka latched onto a Williams header and flicked the ball past De Gea with the back of his boot.
Brimming with confidence after breaking the deadlock, the visitors went close again soon after as Romelu Lukaku, the Premier League’s leading scorer with 21 goals this season, checked inside and fired a low shot wide from the edge of the box.
The Reds responded to the setback and almost found a leveller when Blind’s free-kick 20 yards out was clawed out superbly by Joel Robles in the Toffees goal before Herrera hit the crossbar with the follow-up from a tight angle.
Urged by the home crowd to let fly, the impressive Herrera tried his luck with a stinging 25-yard shot which was tipped around the post athletically by Robles before Ashley Young’s low cross was inches away from finding Rashford, as Mason Holgate applied a vital touch to clear at the back post.
With half-time approaching, the lively Rashford again got himself into an advanced position inside the box but was thwarted by a good tackle from goalscorer Jagielka as the Reds trailed at the break.