United miss guile of injured Rio more than goals of absent striker

Everton 3 Manchester United 3

When it came to analysing how three points became one for Manchester United when Everton scored twice during the additional period formerly known by the wry colloquialism of Fergie Time, the absence of Wayne Rooney was not so much a red herring as a whole shoal of them.

What cost United dear, and which will have encouraged the spies from Rangers ahead of tomorrow's Champions League opener at Old Trafford, was their fallibility at full-back, failures of concentration in central defence and over-reliance in midfield on two players closer to 40 than 30.

Everything, in fact, bar the side of their game to which Rooney is integral. The missing striker did, of course, play at Fulham, where United were held in similar circumstances. Mike Phelan said on Saturday that Rooney "wasn't ready to play" but Sir Alex Ferguson suggested he would reappear against Rangers, raising the question of whether Dimitar Berbatov, whom he hailed as "brilliant" in the lone attacker's role at Goodison Park, would partner Rooney in a 4-4-2 formation or make way for him in a 4-5-1.

However, one suspects that the player whose return the United manager awaits more eagerly is Rio Ferdinand. England's World Cup captain that never was is ready for his first outing since May after recovering from knee surgery. Ferguson, having watched Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans switch off as Tim Cahill's heading prowess brought him one goal and led to Mikel Arteta's deflected equaliser, will look to him to restore order where there was belated chaos.

Vidic struggles against pace and Evans is vulnerable in the air. Add those factors to the waning of Gary Neville's powers, an out-of-sorts display by Patrice Evra and the lack of a designated midfield shield in the mould of Owen Hargreaves or Michael Carrick, and the shock value resided in the timing of Everton's recovery rather than the fact that it had happened.

At 3-2, and with 120 seconds remaining, Neville relinquished possession when United should have been looking to keep the ball, preferably in a corner, rather than inviting Everton forward. Ferguson's engine room, in which John O'Shea resembled a red herring out of water, by that stage comprised Giggs and Scholes, making one wonder whether the deployment of energetic substitutes might have been judicious.

The glass half-full faction among United fans will note that a point from both Everton and Fulham is more than they gained at either last season. The half-empty lobby will see Chelsea four points clear already and recall last year's expensive early lapse against Burnley.

For Everton, who led through Steven Pienaar, looked a beaten side as Darren Fletcher, Vidic and the deceptively languid Berbatov struck, it felt as if the glass was overflowing after their late flurry. Defeat would have meant their worst start since 1994, yet David Moyes argued that if it ended 3-1, "I'd still have said we didn't deserve to be on the end of a defeat".

The Everton boss added candidly: "Obviously we're a little short in some areas of being right at the top. But we've got a good team and we'll give a game to anyone wherever we go. What the players are doing is right but we're just not quite getting the results to go with it. I haven't felt we needed a turning point from the way we've played."

While Ferguson is notorious for studying his watch and glaring at referees, here it was his opposite number who felt indignant about the timekeeping. Everton were pressing for an implausible winner when Martin Atkinson invoked the mean spirit of Clive Thomas by signalling an end to the drama. Moyes, who argued that two stoppage-time goals should have led to more time being added, confronted the official at the end.

"I just told him it was the wrong decision for football," the Scot said, politely omitting to point out that it was Mr Atkinson who allowed seven minutes' added time in April's Manchester derby, during which Scholes hit the winner. "You can't always say nothing. If you feel there's been an injustice you have to be able to air your views. But you [the press] should be talking about a terrific game, not doing pieces on me."

Or, he might have added, about Rooney.

Match facts

Everton 4-4-1-1: Howard; Hibbert (Coleman, 69), Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Osman, Arteta, Heitinga (Yakubu, 69), Pienaar; Fellaini; Cahill. Substitutes not used Mucha (gk), Bilyaletdinov, Beckford, P Neville, Gueye.

Manchester United 4-5-1: Van der Sar; G Neville, Vidic, Evans, Evra (Park, 80); Nani, Fletcher, Scholes, O'Shea, Giggs; Berbatov. Substitutes not used Kuszczak (gk), Owen, Smalling, Rafael, Macheda, Gibson.

Booked Everton Heitinga Manchester United Giggs.

Man of the match Berbatov.

Possession Everton 46% Manchester United 54%.

Shots on target Everton 14 Manchester United 8 Referee M Atkinson (W Yorks). Attendance 36,556

Match rating 9/10

Jeremy Clarkson
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own