The story was all too familiar for Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday night as they were left to rue poor goalkeeping and defending as they conceded a 95th-minute equaliser to draw 3-3 with Everton.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had asked his players to go out and put on a ‘fitting performance’ to honour the victims of the Munich air disaster 63 years on and, while the attackers stepped up to the challenge as the haunting image of the Busby Babes rippled in the wind over the empty seats in the Stretford End, defensively they let themselves down.
So many times Solskjaer has joked that his side like to do things the hard way but, if they were more efficient at the back they would not find themselves in such precarious positions time and time again.
In a game where United dominated and played some of their best football in an impressive first 45 minutes of pressing combined with moments of individual brilliance, as Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes both scored, they conceded three against an Everton side who scored with every single one of their shots on target.
The hosts were in control, they had 62 per cent of the ball, 14 shots to Everton’s six and looked a threat every time they pushed forward, with Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood combining well to link up with Cavani. But it was a lapse in concentration for seven minutes after the restart that really cost Solskjaer’s side.
Paul Pogba's presence in the second half was missed after he had limped off before half-time with what looked like a thigh injury, to be replaced by Fred. But, even without the France international, United should still have been able to hang on to three points at home.
David de Gea has come under scrutiny many times over the past two seasons and those questions will not go away after he gifted Abdoulaye Doucoure a tap-in for Everton’s first goal and was then unable to clear as Dominic Calvert-Lewin poked home the equaliser in the 95th minute, with essentially the last kick of the game.
“You want your goalkeeper to come out and eat the striker,” Gary Neville said in his post-match analysis. But, De Gea stood rooted to the spot.
Dean Henderson was watching on from the bench and must be wondering when his next chance will be coming after the current number one helped in gifting the visitors a point at Old Trafford. The concern looking at the bench for Solskjaer is that there are no reinforcements in terms of defenders.
Eric Bailly is out injured and Axel Tuanzebe came on as a substitute to give away the free kick deep into injury time that gave the visitors a point.
While Harry Maguire had bounced back from a disappointing start to the season, he was caught sleeping when Tom Davies played in Calvert-Lewin to set up Doucoure for Everton’s first and it was a lack of concentration at the back again to allow James Rodriguez to score their second.
Maguire was protesting in vain for a handball for Everton’s last-gasp equaliser but the United captain cannot be expected to be given a helping hand from the officials when their defending just wasn’t good enough and yet again they were undone at a set piece. Maguire was the one who dropped deep to play Everton's players onside in the lead-up to the equaliser.
That’s now seven points in four league games United have dropped in the past 11 days and, if they continue with the lackadaisical defending and goalkeeping on display at Old Trafford on Saturday night, they will drop more in the coming weeks.
"We reacted well after their two goals but then why was there four minutes added in, we had to get the ball in the corner and see it out. Poor goals to concede," Solskjaer told Sky after the game.
"I wouldn't blame anyone on the goals but we know we could have done better as a team on all of them. We should not even be considered as title chasers. That is more talk that the media are saying. We need to be better as a team and see where we end up. We need to stop conceding easy goals."
Their attack is purring and they are the top scorers in the league. But, you have to go all the way down to Leeds in 11th before you find a team that have conceded more.
It’s become an all too familiar problem for United and, unless they resolve it quickly, they can forget about really challenging for the title this season.