Manchester United threw away a first-half lead to draw 1-1 at home to Everton and pile further pressure on beleaguered boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United started with a brisk, confident tempo that had Everton pinned back in their own half for long periods.
However, as the half grew on, the home side struggled to turn possession into openings and the Toffees began to threaten on the counter.
United finally took the lead just before half-time, thanks to a well-worked team goal. First, Greenwood shrugged off his marker to fire a pass infield towards Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese controlled the pass in an instant before rolling an inviting ball into the path of the lurking Anthony Martial, who swept emphatically past Pickford from 12 yards.
Could United hold on for a vital win?
The second half began with much the same pattern – United on top but struggling to fashion clear chances. Everton remained a threat on the break.
The equaliser arrived just past the hour mark and owed much to a catalogue of poor decisions from Solskjaer’s men.
To add insult to injury, the latest moment of inevitability arrived directly from the Reds’ own corner. First Fred miscued in his own half before allowing Demarai Gray to gallop unchallenged at Victor Lindelof.
The (once again) poor Shaw vacated his position, leaving acres of room for a completely unmarked Andros Townsend to latch onto Gray’s pass and slot past David De Gea.
With the Reds pushing for another late winner, the decisive moment almost went to the visitors, only for Yerry Mina’s late tap in to be ruled out for offside. Benitez’s men would have to be satisfied with a creditable point.
At this stage, it’s worth asking what Manchester United fans would give for a routine victory? As much as they revel in the rush of a feverish late comeback, there’s something to be said for the forgotten art of a comfortable stroll.
The truth is that, for all the talk of late rallies being an essential part of the United DNA, their greatest sides comfortably dispatched lesser opponents with unerring regularity. It was the bedrock of every title challenge.
It happened at least ten to fifteen times a season under the great Sir Alex Ferguson. No fuss, no drama, just a routine trampling of opponents happy to leave Old Trafford with their dignity intact.
Three years into his stewardship and Solskjaer’s rebooted Reds show no sign of mastering game-management. Every contest is an end-to-end battle overrun with self-inflicted vagaries.
In short, the current, chaotic trajectory just isn’t sustainable.
One of the biggest issues is that his side can’t keep clean sheets. Additionally, they rarely win the midfield battle, which contributes to a regularly exposed back four.
The moments of brilliance just aren’t enough to stymie the notion that this group lacks structure, know-how, cohesion and discipline.
It’s a side of such maddening fragility that they can gift opponents goals from almost any position at any point in the game. All it ever seems to take is one positive run or direct pass and the midfield is bypassed, the goal beckoning. It’s become shockingly commonplace.
No matter the opposition, the problems are never solved and the brittleness remains. There are no easy rides for this team and, after three years of the same flaws, there’ll be no easy rides for the manager either.
Something has to change. And quickly.