Richard Buxton: One step forward, two steps back for Manchester United
Wins over Spurs and Man City tarnished by draw with lowly Everton
No one currently embodies Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tenure more than Mason Greenwood.
An innate ability to score vital late goals unites Manchester United's master and apprentice, and the teenager may have just spared his manager an unhappy anniversary.
Until Greenwood's 77th-minute strike in last night's 1-1 draw with an injury-stricken Everton, Solskjaer would have been dreading opening his traditional one-year gifts later this week.
|(Mason Greenwood 77)||(Victor Lindelof 36-og)|
Whether given paper or a clock, the Norwegian should not ignore the symbolism of either.
Even in the face of numerous setbacks at Old Trafford, Duncan Ferguson let slip the dogs of war. Solskjaer, meanwhile, sent out excitable puppies in the 20-time English champions' place.
Ferguson is under no illusions that his future does not lie in the hot seat beyond the next few weeks or months. If only the United boss took a similarly pragmatic view on his own position.
His inability to learn lessons from the overdue wake-up call that the Toffees delivered to his personal nostalgia trip last season is likely to come back to haunt him next summer, just as much as the Red Devils' inability to fight it out at the business end of the English Premier League.
As Christmas approaches, his side continued to make the same mistakes they showed on Easter Sunday at Goodison Park.
Wins over Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in the space of four days appear increasingly inconsequential when stacked against this result.
United have become the definition of big-time Charlies; invariably raising their game against the sides they aspire to join in the EPL's upper echelons, while taking their foot off the pedal in games with lesser teams, misguidedly believing their stature offers a sense of entitlement.
Yet their record of winning just one of the last 12 EPL games in which they conceded first should have forewarned Solskjaer that his team can no longer rest on such laurels.
They are no longer in the heady days of 1999, when winning became a habit they could not kick.
United's standing as the league's youngest-ever squad this season, with an average age of 25.2 years, was underlined by their rapid-fire approach against Everton.
Before Greenwood's crucial equaliser, they were snatching at shots in front of their struggling visitors' goal.
David de Gea also conceded for a 12th consecutive game in the EPL, marking his worst run of form without a clean sheet.
Even "Dave" cannot save United from themselves, it seems.
Solskjaer's prophecy that Marcus Rashford can be as good as Cristiano Ronaldo feels fanciful at this stage.
Beyond "running down the wing", true to the famous Old Trafford ditty, there is little in common between the homegrown forward and the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.
Making parallels with yesteryear was previously considered taboo at the Theatre of Dreams.
Those that tried, and failed, to step into Sir Alex Ferguson's managerial shadow felt that the past was an unhealthy reminder of how far the club had fallen since his 2013 retirement.
The latest incumbent, however, has made revisiting the past a hallmark of his reign, with several former teammates revisiting United's Carrington training ground in recent weeks.
But no amount of feel-good jaunts down memory lane nor armfuls of chocolates and flowers will be able to mask Solskjaer's continued shortcomings as an elite-level manager, especially when those far better and more decorated than him have struggled to turn back the clock.
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Shaw, James (Mata 86), Lingard (Greenwood 65), Rashford, Martial
Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne (Baines 25), Iwobi, Davies, Holgate, Bernard (Kean 70, Niasse 89), Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin