Today’s Manchester United-Everton game could’ve been a big deal to either team. If Everton won, they would’ve leapt over Arsenal and United to take the fifth spot in the table, just five points behind Man City in fourth; while they still would’ve had basically no realistic shot of finishing in the top four, they could’ve at least pretended they did without getting laughed at. A United win would’ve been a statement of intent, making clear that the Red Devils were serious competitors in a top four race that they would extend to the very last days of the season. In the end, the game finished 1-1, which doesn’t really help either of them.
Everton probably played the better game, and looked especially dangerous during the first half. The best chances fell to their soon-to-be departed forward Romelu Lukaku, who for some reason couldn’t help himself from thumping his shots straight into the bodies of the defenders marking him. It was actually old man Phil Jagielka who scored the go-ahead goal, and it was an odd one:
United played much better after halftime. As Everton sat back to protect their lead, Man U applied more and more pressure on the Toffee’s goal as the half wore on. Zlatan Ibrahimović put a header into the back of the net that was probably erroneously ruled out for offside. An eventual equalizer felt inevitable in the match’s latter stages, and it came in stoppage time when Ashley Williams clearly handled a United shot as it headed toward Everton’s goal. Williams was sent off, Ibrahimović converted the penalty, and that was that:
This match was a pretty good representation of both team’s seasons. Today, as has been the case all season, Everton were pretty damn good but not quite good enough to do something of real consequence. United at times looked kind of weak, at others looked great, and wound up settling for a draw in a match they could’ve won. (This is United’s league-leading 12th draw of the season.)
Everton weren’t going to get a Champions League spot before today, and still won’t now. United could’ve maybe forced themselves back into the top four race, and while the odds are against them doing so after this result, it’s not so unrealistic a proposition that they should give up now. Still, for the richest club in the world, it looks like it’s Europa League title or bust.