David de Gea, a reminder of Solskjaer’s failed promise: Richard Buxton
Not much has changed since United's last visit to Goodison, including a goalkeeper in decline
David de Gea can no longer be considered Manchester United's saviour in between the sticks.
Where the Spain international once spared the 20-time English champions' blushes, he now inflicts them with another comedic error in a 1-1 draw at Everton last night.
|(Dominic Calvert-Lewin 3)||(Bruno Fernandes 31)|
It came after just three minutes, when his botched attempt at a clearance allowed Dominic Calvert-Lewin to score his 13th goal of the season with an outreached leg.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer vowed that the Red Devils would never be as bad as their previous visit to Goodison Park. He claimed last April's 4-0 thrashing had sparked greater mental fortitude.
Courtesy of de Gea's latest howler, that bold statement unravelled within minutes.
Such was the chastening nature of that Easter Sunday outing that the United's travelling support found themselves reduced to celebrating their team successfully completing passes.
Solskjaer dug out his players after their Merseyside abomination and threatened to ring the changes.
Barely 11 months on, an overhaul has not been entirely forthcoming with eight of the players who were in that matchday squad last season retaining their places last night.
Chief among them to depart should have been de Gea, who's had quite a few howlers of late.
Only Jordan Pickford's own blundering later in the first half, as Bruno Fernandes struck a long-range equaliser, allowed him to share the blame as one of four goalkeepers to have made the most errors contributing directly to opposition goals since the start of last season.
Not even hindsight would suggest that United should have bitten Real Madrid's hand off when they were routinely circling de Gea in successive transfer windows.
His fall from grace had been playing out in slow motion long before the Spanish giants chose to curtail their interest.
Perseverance with the 29-year-old may still come at a cost as United's Champions League ambitions remain alive by sole virtue of the dismal form by their closest challengers Chelsea.
They currently resemble continental pretenders and were prevented from being fully unmasked only by the video assistant referee (VAR), which chalked off a legitimate Everton winner in stoppage time.
De Gea was beaten by Calvert-Lewin, whose effort deflected off Harry Maguire. But the VAR ruled that Gylfi Sigurdsson was offside.
Solskjaer's "cultural reboot" has been his greatest undoing since being handed the Old Trafford reins on a permanent basis, just under 12 months previously.
Simplicity rather than swaggering should have been the order of business on United's lengthy road to redemption.
Carlo Ancelotti showed the Norwegian how effective going back to basics could be as Everton routinely nullified their visitors across both halves in spite of several fraught moments.
His side were unfortunate not to snatch a late victory given the contentious circumstances.
In more ways than one, United's recent personnel loss might soon work to their hosts' advantage.
Under the watchful eye of Gareth Southgate, Calvert-Lewin made a compelling argument to be called up for England's friendlies with Denmark and Italy later this month.
No other EPL player has amassed more goals than his eight in the time since Ancelotti took to the Goodison hot seat in December.
Through a combination of prolific marksmanship and industry, he offers everything the Three Lions have lost since Marcus Rashford's injury lay-off.
Scoring with virtually the last kick of this game may have settled the debate, but England can do far worse than tasking Calvert-Lewin with leading the line in the Wembley double-header.
United, meanwhile, are still some distance off from returning to what was once normality.