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

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice