Frantic finale at Goodison as visitors let two-goal lead slip in injury time...
Sir Alex Ferguson surprisingly left out the England striker, despite saying on Friday that he would play; with the United boss not willing to risk the England front-man in front of his former club’s fans. Meanwhile, Everton manager David Moyes left Jermaine Beckford on the bench with Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini starting in attack for the Toffees.
The home side started the brighter of both sides and Steven Pienaar found space in the United box within a minute, but his shot was blocked by defender Nemanja Vidic. Everton were looking energetic, their passing and moving causing early problems for United and when Pienaar was fouled by Gary Neville, Mikel Arteta stepped up and his free-kick just shaved the top of the bar.
Sir Alex Ferguson was celebrating his 700th Premier League game as United manager, but he wouldn’t have been pleased with his tean's start although they did manage their first attempt on 15 minutes with John O’Shea clipping the frame of the goal with a thunderous strike.
As the half progressed, Everton were still looking the livelier side although their shots failed to test Edwin van der Sar in the United goal. Leighton Baines was the closest Everton player to score but his shot flew just wide. However just after the half hour mark, United should have been in front. Nani laid his free-kick into the path of Paul Scholes and his strike was destined for the net, only for Everton keeper Tim Howard to produce a brilliant save with his legs to deny the midfielder.
Manchester United were soon dominating the half and they had another glorious chance to pull ahead. Ryan Giggs, who was linked with the Wales job in the week, found space and his shot was saved well again by Tim Howard.
This was to prove decisive as just a minute later Everton were in front. A long ball up-field was collected by Arteta and although his shot was saved by Van der Sar, the ball found Leon Osman and his pass found Pienaar who slotted the ball into the empty net to give the home side the lead.
However the lead lasted no longer than a couple of minutes as United were soon level. A superb ball by Nani on the right was met by Darren Fletcher, who neatly placed the ball past Howard into the Everton net. There was one more chance, but Dimitar Berbatov shot wide and the teams were into the break level at 1-1.
The second half was as open and entertaining as the first with both teams looking to attack but it was Manchester United who created the first chance. Berbatov found space in the Everton half and his shot was blocked by Sylvain Distin for a corner. But from the resulting corner, United were ahead. Although the kick was headed out by Distin, Nani floated the ball back in to penalty area and his cross was met by the head of Vidic, who made no mistake as the ball flew past Howard into the net.
Everton were not lying down and still looked threatening going forward, with the impressive Pienaar curling a right foot shot straight into the arms of Van der Sar. But they also looked suspect at the back and it was Tim Howard who saved the home side again as he saved well from Nani. But again Everton were punished just two minutes later. Paul Scholes’ superb ball found Dimitar Berbatov who raced past Distin to slot the ball past Howard to give United a 3-1 lead.
Although the win looked secured for the away side, Everton could have reduced the lead to one goal; however Baines saw his free-kick curl narrowly wide. and they had a better scoring chance with just 15 minutes to go. Substitute Yakubu weaved his way in the United box and his pass found Osman who produced a fine save from Van der Sar.
However, deep into injury time Everton scored twice to rescue a point. First Tim Cahill headed past the United keeper, before Mikel Arteta struck a sweet shot past Van der Sar to earn a deserved point at Goodison Park.