Academy graduate Mason Greenwood came to the rescue on a landmark day for Manchester United’s youth system and earned a share of the spoils against Everton.
Sunday’s Old Trafford encounter was the 4,000th consecutive match in which the club had included a youth graduate in the matchday squad – an occasion that did not go to plan following back-to-back Premier league wins against Tottenham and Manchester City.
Victor Lindelof’s own goal had much-loved caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson bouncing on the touchline in celebration, but homegrown teenager Greenwood came off the bench to deny Everton a first Old Trafford win since 2013 as it ended 1-1.
It was a frustrating afternoon just as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side appeared to have turned the corner, yet it would have been a lot worse was it not for Greenwood, Thursday’s man-of-the-match against AZ Alkmaar.
Injury-hit Everton played with confidence following the impressive win against Chelsea and were on course for another shock triumph when Lindelof turned into his own goal and the video assistant referee cleared Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s challenge on David De Gea.
It extended United’s wait for a Premier League clean sheet to an 11th match and left them with a mountain to climb, leading Solskjaer to turn to the club’s latest academy star.
Greenwood has impressed whenever given the opportunity this season and did not disappoint when brought on in the second half, with the 18-year-old finding space to get away a low shot and secure a point.
The homegrown forward was among seven academy graduates in the squad against Everton, with starter Jesse Lingard twisting and firing wide 15 seconds into a lively first half at Old Trafford.
Yet, that chance aside, Everton started brighter. Backtracking De Gea collided with the post when tipping over a fizzing, goal-bound Mason Holgate cross, with Bernard and the makeshift midfielder having other attempts soon after.
United then took control as Everton’s vulnerability from long balls was highlighted, with Marcus Rashford striking wide from an acute angle after being found by Lindelof’s laser pass and Daniel James then dragging wide after being found by Scott McTominay.
The visitors were wobbling and their issues were compounded when Lucas Digne was forced off.
Things could have easily got worse moments later as Tom Davies, on a booking, took down McTominay on the edge of the box, but the Everton midfielder avoided a second booking and Rashford’s free-kick was saved.
Ferguson was getting increasingly agitated by Everton’s play and, despite the rain, took his suit jacket off, leaving him in a shirt and tie on the touchline.
But soon frustration turned to elation as substitute Leighton Baines’ corner went into the United goal off unsighted Lindelof. The VAR checked Calvert-Lewin’s challenge on De Gea as the ball came in, but the goal was given the green light.
United were unable to create much of a comeback before half-time, with Ferguson’s suit jacket lasting just five minutes of the second half.
Fred, Rashford and Harry Maguire had attempts as the pressure steadily crept up, with Pickford denying a thumping Luke Shaw strike before Lingard took James’ follow-up in the face.
The Wales flyer got a low effort away after good work by substitute Greenwood, with Lindelof curling just off target as the match entered the final 20 minutes.
Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka produced timely challenges as play became stretched, keeping United’s hope of a comeback alive.
It was a platform that Greenwood was able to build on. Found by James, the teenager shifted the ball onto his left foot and fired low past Pickford.
Old Trafford roared on United as Rashford and James looked for a winner, although De Gea had to be alert to deny Alex Iwobi at the other end.
There would be no more goals but Ferguson raised eyebrows when taking off Moise Kean. The Italy international was brought on in the 70th minute and looked puzzled to be replaced by Oumar Niasse in the 89th. He headed straight down the tunnel.