Zlatan Ibrahimovic's late penalty rescues 1-1 draw for Man United against Everton

It’s just been that kind of season for Manchester United.

The kind in which the Red Devils’ opponents reliably play better than their average performance, but United is typically the better team still. Yet the sort of season in which the other team gets a lucky goal while United hits the framework a few times and has a goal dubiously disallowed, forcing it to chase the game for an hour or so. The sort of games that make for a frustrating season, the first under Jose Mourinho, where United has now had to settle for a league-leading 12 ties, including a staggering nine at home.

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Tuesday’s 1-1 home tie with Everton was another such game, in which Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 94th-minute penalty undid Phil Jagielka’s flukey first-half goal.

And rather than resuscitate United’s chances of climbing one last spot to reach the Premier League’s top four and the corresponding spot in next year’s Champions League, it remained stuck in fifth, four points adrift from Manchester City.

Zlatan converts the penalty. (AP Photo)
Zlatan converts the penalty. (AP Photo)

United made a promising and vigorous start. In the fifth minute, Ibrahimovic received the ball close to the penalty area and managed to get himself in shooting position, but Ashley Williams recovered and blocked the shot. This would be a trend.

And in the 22nd minute, of course, Everton would get a goal on its only real chance – and a half-chance at that. Kevin Mirallas chested down a long ball and ripped it at goalkeeper David De Gea, who managed to block it and gave up the corner. But on the ensuing set piece, the corner was headed on by Williams and Phil Jagielka somehow poked the ball through De Gea’s legs with his back to goal as he held off Marcos Rojo.

Half an hour in, Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles saved a Daley Blind free kick to his near post. Ander Herrera had an impossibly tough shot from the rebound – on the run (while being closed down and going away from goal) and on the bounce – and smashed it off the crossbar. Robles would deny him again on a blazing long shot a few minutes later.

United would hit the crossbar a second time 10 minutes after halftime, when substitute Paul Pogba redirected Ashley Young’s free kick off the cross bar. And in the 71st, Ibrahimovic was inches offside – or controversially adjudged to have been by the assistant referee, anyway – as he headed a cross just hard enough to prevent Robles from keeping it in front of his line.

Zlatan sent another header just over as time ticked down. United attacked and attacked. Pressed and pressed. Crossed and crossed. Shot and shot. Headed and headed. The Red Devils would be rewarded in the end, preventing Everton from winning at Old Trafford for the first time in decades.

In the 93rd minute, United defender Luke Shaw – criticized by Mourinho for not working hard enough in practice just a day earlier – smashed a hopeful shot at goal and Williams dove and blocked it with his arm. He was sent off and was further punished with a penalty.

Zlatan converted it cleanly.

But it was just a point when United needed three. It bears repeating: a ninth home draw, to six wins and a lone loss.

“I think we deserve a little bit more,” Ibrahimovic spoke after the game. Quite.

Because it’s just been that kind of season for Manchester United.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

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