Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opted to leave Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and co on the bench before bringing them on as Man Utd squandered a lead in their draw with Everton
Considering he had been on the pitch for almost 10 minutes, it was no surprise to see the Cristiano Ronaldo goal celebration.
Unfortunately, for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it came from Andros Townsend.
As managerial masterstrokes go, leaving Ronaldo on the bench and then bringing him on when there was a single-goal lead to preserve was certainly not up there with the best of them.
With the home side already one up through Anthony Martial’s deflected strike, the glitterati came on during the second half – Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho, Paul Pogba – and Manchester United got progressively worse.
Not only did Townsend equalise with a peach of a breakaway goal, Everton could – and should – have won it, but Tom Davies and Yerry Mina combined to make an offside hash of an absolute gift.
If, after the best part of three years, you are still not convinced about Solskjaer’s suitability for a post such as this one, then days like this will hardly help.
Ahead of an international break, quite why Ronaldo and Pogba needed a breather is anyone’s guess.
And while it would be harsh to attach any blame to the substitutes – or the substitutions – United had a relative degree of control before Sancho and Ronaldo replaced Martial and Edinson Cavani.
It was probably just coincidence they lost control soon after that but, even so, Solskjaer was again trending on social media after Townsend’s leveller. And not in a positive way.
But to a large extent, the debate is spurious.
You can attach ‘Ole Out’ to a hashtag all you want, but he is going nowhere and the Old Trafford board are not mindful of a change.
So it is more useful to acknowledge this Everton performance and the rejuvenation of Townsend. He has now scored in three games on the spin and while he will have harder finishes to execute, he took this chance with aplomb.
His Ronaldo impression, incidentally, was less convincing.
Townsend is not the only player clearly fired up by Rafael Benitez. Take the other two main protagonists in the Everton goal.
Demarai Gray not only exposed Fred’s inadequacy to start the move but he scared United’s defence every time he ran directly at them.
And as for Abdoulaye Doucoure, provider of the assist, he was the most complete midfielder out on the Old Trafford pitch.
Not only was he fiercely combative, but he had the presence of mind to pick and weight the right pass.
On a broader note, though, what was significant about this Everton performance was their commitment, their doggedness, their physicality, their tactical discipline – in the context of so many key players injured.
And for those of us who wondered out loud whether Benitez was a busted flush, this was a loud retort.
Fourteen points from seven games is their best seven-match start since the 2004-05 season.
And for all Solskjaer’s claims of United dominance, Jordan Pickford was only seriously troubled when Martial’s hit took a nick and found the roof of his net.
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This was a deserved point for Everton, but such is the spotlight on Solskjaer, most of the analysis will focus on the United manager’s failings.
And no doubt, on Ronaldo. The abiding image at the final whistle was not the Everton players celebrating in front of very appreciative travelling supporters, but Ronaldo flouncing and muttering his way down the tunnel.
He was probably still wondering why, after five goals in five appearances and only leisurely games against Qatar and Luxembourg on his immediate schedule, he had not started. He would be right to wonder.
His return is not going to go as smoothly as his early scoring spree suggests.
But this was not all about Ronaldo.
And the man who mimicked his post-scoring routine deserves his moment in the sun.