Rafa Benitez talked in his pre-match press conference on Friday about the notable changes in Premier League football over the past decade or so.
Possession, said Benitez, is no longer king. What matters is creating chances and scoring goals, not how much of the ball you have.
Everton, shorn of attacking dynamos Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, were always going to allow Manchester United plenty of it.
The numbers in-game ran at roughly 70-30 in the home team’s favour.
And, as Benitez observed is often the case, it didn’t matter a jot.
Everton matched United for chances and scored an exhilarating counter-attacking goal that sparked jubilant scenes among the away fans congregated behind David De Gea’s goal.
Allan cleared the ball from a corner, enabling Demarai Gray to take over and blister across 50 yards, bumping off a sturdy challenge from Fred to advance and square to Abdoulaye Doucoure.
The rangy midfielder played his part superbly, calmly turning away from Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw.
Doucoure’s pass for Townsend was on the money and the forward controlled and rifled across De Gea for his fifth goal of the season.
With two minutes remaining it could have got even better for Benitez’s counter-punching side.
Everton kept United pinned in from a corner but when Tom Davies, on as a substitute, squared for Yerry Mina to convert, the Colombian had run offside.
Not that referee Michael Oliver or his assistant noticed, the final call made by VAR Stuart Attwell.
The point lifted Everton into the Premier League's top three at full-time, nonetheless, separated from United in second only by goal difference.
Anybody watching the opening 10 minutes of this at Old Trafford would surely have concluded they’d come to witness Everton batten down the hatches.
It was a measure of how the visitors turned that impression on its head, emerging as the more progressive and more likely team, then, that when Anthony Martial clipped the ball into the roof of Jordan Pickford’s net three minutes before half-time, it felt like we’d witnessed a travesty of justice.
The goal was well worked, Scott McTominay and Mason Greenwood hurrying the ball right to left to eventual recipient Bruno Fernandes.
He ushered in Martial, galloping into space to finish past Pickford.
The rueful smile plastered across Pickford’s features told of a goalkeeper who knew his luck was out, the ball speeding past him via a slight deflection from the sliding Mina.
Manchester United initially saw an awful lot of the ball and passed it crisply and quickly. Greenwood whizzed a ball across the face of the box after nine minutes, not long after Martial had headed off target from close range.
But, with the exception of an Edinson Cavani header that brought a smart save from Pickford, tumbling to his right to push clear, it was nearly all Everton from minutes nine to 42.
Lucas Digne and Anthony Gordon worked an improvised headed one-two around the halfway line following a Pickford goal-kick.
Digne allowed the ball to drop before cushioning a side-footed volleyed pass into the gaping hole Salomon Rondon was busy running into.
Shaping to shoot, Rondon was rushed by Raphael Varane, who sprinted across to put the squeeze on the Venezuelan and forced the strike too high to trouble David De Gea.
The Evertonians massed in a corner of Old Trafford were audibly enjoying what they were seeing.
A guttural roar greeted challenges from Gordon and Allan, snapping into Greenwood, in quick succession.
When McTominay was heavy-handed on Digne and Allan and Docuoure took issue with the Scottish midfielder, it sparked a set-to that ultimately involved all 11 of Everton’s players.
That went down well with the travelling fans, too.
And the noisy Everton supporters were nearly dialling up the volume further still moments later.
The immaculate Gray received a low pass from Digne facing his own goal and with a bank of red shirts between him and United’s penalty box.
Gray spun to skip between McTominay and Fred and bear down on goal. Two touches to make ground were followed by a stinging low drive beaten out by United goalkeeper De Gea, diving right.
Everton had recorded seven shots to United’s five by the interval and they seemed to arrive one after the other, such was the flow of the game.
Rondon was thwarted by the blocking Varane after Doucoure legged it down the right to cross low. The ball sat up for a volley after the striker’s first touch but French centre-half Varane put his body on the line to intervene.
Doucoure had a go himself, controlling a half-volley from Townsend’s cross but similarly denied by a covering Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Gordon, on his first Premier League start of the season, was excellent on Everton’s left.
He spent the opening part of the game lending Digne a hand – and when Everton regained possession had a lot of distance to cover to reach a position where he could threaten.
As the tone of the game altered, Gordon was a frequent visitor into attacking territory.
Lindelof was rooted when the 20-year-old injected a turn of pace to the right of United’s penalty area.
Shaw scrambled clear from in front of Townsend and Varane was first on the loose ball to hammer clear.
Evidence of Everton beginning to get under United’s skin came in the shape of a succession of cheap free-kicks conceded by the hosts.
Wan-Bissaka was the first guilty party – bundling into the back of Gordon.
It added up to a reversal of the norm for Wan-Bissaka, so assured defensively but often under the microscope for his work after crossing the halfway line.
No sign of any issues with Wan-Bissaka offensively when he stood up a cross to the far post on six minutes, Martial arcing his back but unable to control the header.
It was Martial clearing Digne’s bending dead ball, with Godfrey racing into the box hoping for contact, after Wan-Bissaka floored Gordon.
Shaw shoved over Townsend on Everton’s right two minutes later. The wronged party whipped in the set-piece, met by Michael Keane glancing past the far post.
Fred clipped Gray’s heels as United grew more testy and Fernandes left a leg in on the same visiting player. Amid Everton’s flurry of first-half opportunities, meanwhile, Greenwood went in the book for illegally halting a burst forwards from the ubiquitous Gordon.
Martial tried for a second goal straight after his first but Pickford was equal to the effort directed under his bar.
Action replay shortly after the restart, only it was Greenwood with the effort held above his head by Pickford.
Townsend needed to generate all the power on a header from Digne’s cross and could only loop the ball onto the roof of the net.
Fellow attacker Gray dribbled into the box, United’s defenders reluctant to engage, but was falling when he hit a tame effort at De Gea.
Gray was next sighted shrugging off the attentions of Fred to feed Doucoure, who eased in Townsend for Everton’s leveller.
Not satisfied with that contribution, Gray continued to drive Everton forwards, consistently running at United’s backline and carrying the ball into the box.
United had their own arch-dribbler on by now. Cristiano Ronaldo was introduced at 1-0 and the Portuguese tried to restore the home side’s lead with a shot from the left that flew beyond the far post.
Another United substitute, Paul Pogba, curled narrowly wide from 20 yards with nine minutes remaining.
Jadon Sancho, the third United player to come off the bench, drew groans from the home supporters with a tame effort at Pickford.
Had the England player done better it would have been unbearably cruel on Everton so soon after they thought they’d won it when Mina finished into an empty net.
Andros At It Again
For a lesson in the art of brilliant counter-attacking watch Everton’s equalising goal at Old Trafford.
To witness individual excellence wrapped up in rich collective quality, have a look at how Everton sped from one end of the pitch to the other to level Anthony Martial’s first-half goal.
There was nowhere for Demarai Gray to go when he collected Allan’s clearance from a United corner.
Not to the untrained eye, anyway.
Gray set off for the opposing half, demonstrating exceptional strength and balance to resist Fred’s attempts at buffeting the Everton player.
Abdoulaye Doucoure clearly had faith in Gray’s ability to keep hold of the ball because the Frenchman was advancing at breakneck speed.
When the pass infield landed at his feet, Doucoure was poise personified. He feinted to deceive both Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof, opening up the entire right half of the field.
Which is where Andros Townsend was fast arriving.
Townsend talked this week of aiming for the double of 10 goals and 10 assists this season.
Well, here was an opportunity to get halfway to the goals mark.
Not a gimme, mind. One-on -ne with De Gea, Townsend used the first touch with his left foot to switch the ball to his right and create an angle to shoot across the Spanish keeper.
Townsend’s execution was perfect, matching everything that went before it in as ruthless a counter-attack as you could hope to witness.
Smells Like Team Spirit
For two intangibles, togetherness and spirit feature in a lot of conversation about football.
With only infrequent exceptions, a team regularly winning is said to have the qualities by the bucketload.
The side that can’t buy a result, meanwhile, is perceived to be running low on these two commodities.
But with their character and ambition put to the test when trailing Manchester United, Everton showed the possess both attributes in spades.
There was evidence of an all-for-one mentality when Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure got in the face of Scott McTominay after the midfielder’s foul on Lucas Digne.
Before long, the entire XI were on the scene sticking up for their mate.
Everton were disciplined and organised and never allowed their concentration to waver.
Players chased and covered and when the away side sprang on the counter it was in unison and at electric speed.
There were countless blocks and tackles in a performance where all every Everton player contributed.
Manchester United came into this on a high after beating Villarreal at the death in midweek and were able to bring the big guns of the bench in the shape of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba and Jadon Sancho.
This is no place to carry passengers.
Everton refused to retreat in the face of that fresh firepower. There was still intent to win the game, while remaining steadfast at the back in midfield.
This was an Everton effort infused with grit and determination and a lot of quality.
And if spirit and attitude and togetherness are difficult to measure, this is what they look like.
One more push. That was the demand from Andros Townsend. Everton, insisted the red-hot forward, had to go to the well one more time prior to an international break that – with a fair wind – will enable key players to recover full health.
Everton overcame the absence of potent forwards Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison to beat Norwich City last weekend.
This was another test altogether, Everton’s first meeting with any of the sides occupying the four positions ahead of them in the Premier League table on Saturday morning.
Manchester United were riding the wave of euphoria created by their late, late show against Villarreal on Wednesday.
The first job for Rafael Benitez’s team was to dampen an upbeat atmosphere, to smother the hosts’ array of attacking whizzes.
By restricting United to few clear early openings, Everton began to turn the expectation in the stadium to their advantage.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team were struggling to stem the tide of Everton attacks, as the visitors increasingly cut through United at will.
Anthony Martial’s goal represented a hammer blow, spoiling an opening half when Everton had done everything their manager asked of them, bar score.
The task of finding an equaliser was a devilish one, Everton needing to strike a balance between hunting down the goal to earn a point and avoiding a potentially fatal second at the end.
Benitez’s side answered Townsend’s pre-game urging, consistently probing United and eventually breaking through with a rapier surge after 65 minutes.
It is a second draw for Everton this season to go with four wins and a solitary loss. The return of 14 points was sufficient for a position in the Premier League’s top three at full-time – with Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, along with captain Seamus Coleman, potentially back to face West Ham United in a fortnight.