Manchester United were held to their 6th draw in eight games when Leighton Baines’ late penalty cancelled out Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s opener. The Hard Tackle discusses some key talking points from what was another disappointing outing for the Red Devils.

After a promising start to the campaign, Manchester United supporters are beginning to grow increasingly frustrated with their team’s inconsistency and inability to finish off games after being held to yet another draw at Goodison Park on Sunday. After a promising start to the game Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent his side into the lead with a beautiful lobbed finish over Martin Stekelenburg in the first half.

The goal looked to have secured the three points until Marouane Fellaini’s lazy challenge on Idrissa Gueye gifted his former team a late penalty which Leighton Baines duly converted to rescue a point for the Toffees. There are little positives to incur for both sides from this game as they approach a testing Christmas period sitting well adrift of the Top 4 places.

Clumsy Fellaini

Just how the Belgian international continues to get playing time in a Manchester United shirt is beyond the understanding of fans and pundits alike. The ideology behind his presence in the side is unquestionably his height and physical presence. But  after some poor performances in recent weeks one can’t help but wonder if those qualities are enough to take United over the line or more so, help Fellaini keep his place in the squad let alone starting XI.

Granted, Mourinho see’s his height as an advantage but his duties aren’t just limited to that. The 29-year-old has shown a knack for the miss-timed passes, rash challenges and lapses in concentration and Sunday was further evidence of that. The lazy challenge on Idrissa Gueye will infuriate the boss himself given how irresponsible a tackle that was at such late a stage in the game. The Belgian’s 8-minute cameo at Goodison was littered with comical moments showcasing his lack of awareness andpoor passing. There was no evidence of the aerial advantage Mourinho quoted as the reasoning behind his substitution.

Quite the only positive from the game for the 29-year-old was that he got to make his 100th appearance in a Red Devils’ shirt. Fellaini may still continue to get playing time until the January transfer window opens and needless to say, he’ll have to do an awful lot more if he is to warrant a place in this United side going forward.

Jose Mourinho’s decision making in the spot-light once again

The stalemate at Goodison was the Red Devils’ 6th in their last eight league games and has put Mourinho in a spot of bother. The Portuguese has come in for some flak off-late for his decision making as far as team selection is concerned and his 85th minute substitution of Marouane Fellaini for Henrikh Mkhitaryan on Sunday did him little favours.

The problem with United off-late has been their inability to finish off games and with the score at 1-0, Mourinho’s focus could have remained on trying to extend the lead rather than going defensive by hauling off the Armenian. For a side that has spent in excess of £100 million in attacking quality over the summer, one would expect more from the Red Devils than just settling for a one goal lead against an Everton side that were struggling to impose their influence on the game.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Jose Mourinho manager of Manchester United stands alongside substitute Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park on December 4, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 04: Jose Mourinho manager of Manchester United stands alongside substitute Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park on December 4, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Luck has been a factor that has affected United’s results and league positions this season but the side have also been hard done by some of Mourinho’s decisions, especially in the league. The Old Trafford giants on paper are a side that should be challenging at the very top in the Premier League and they have shown flashes of their brilliance this season especially in the cup competitions. But they will need that to happen in the Premier League soon and as early as next week if they are to catch up with the teams placed above them.

At Chelsea during the 2014-15 season, the Portuguese’s side managed to grind out a number of 1-0 wins en route to a famous Premier League triumph but it’s been a painful ordeal for him trying to implement that at United. With a defence suffering from constant injury problems, Mourinho must look to outscore the opponents more than trying to shut down their attack, given that it’s one of the Red Devils’ biggest strengths.

Poor Conversion

United’s lack of finishing has hurt them dearly this season as they have failed to settle the result in games where they have dominated from start to finish. Case in point, the home game against Burnley. Some seem to cite bad luck while others are plain critical of the forwards who failed to put away their chances. Barring a poor run of form in October, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been among the goals regularly for United.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United is dejected after the final whistle during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Burnley at Old Trafford on October 29, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images)

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 29: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United is dejected after the final whistle during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Burnley at Old Trafford on October 29, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images)

While his strikes have been of the highest quality, the Swedish striker’s inability to put away some of the simpler opportunities into the back of the net has been frustrating to watch. Mourinho’s side have created the highest number of chances in the league but with an abysmal conversion rate of 30.77%, one begins to get the picture behind his side’s poor results off-late.

Refereeing standards have gone down

For all the fascination about the ongoing Premier League with the advent of new stars, world class players and managers, this season may certainly not be looked upon with the fondest memory from a refereeing perspective. Less than half-way into the campaign, we may well be able to compile a lengthy montage of refereeing howlers ideally worthy of a full season.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 18: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United (L) argues with referee Michael Oliver during the Premier League match between Watford and Manchester United at Vicarage Road on September 18, 2016 in Watford, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

WATFORD, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 18: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United (L) argues with referee Michael Oliver during the Premier League match between Watford and Manchester United at Vicarage Road on September 18, 2016 in Watford, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

There have been numerous controversial decisions over the course of the season particularly with respect to awarding penalties as there clearly seems to be varying perspectives on what kind of challenges deserve to be penalised inside the opposition box.

And Sunday saw further evidence of falling standards of refereeing quality in the league with Manchester United benefactors of an absolute howler from Michael Oliver. The official didn’t deem it fit to even brandish a yellow card on Marcos Rojo for his horrendous challenge on Idrissa Gueye during the game. While replays clearly showed how the offence was well worthy of a red card it’s hard to fathom how the incident was missed by Michael and his cordon of assistant referees.

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