Everton 1 Man United 1: Clumsy Fellaini costs victory as Mourinho’s ever-increasing strain levels are tested to the limit
It says everything about Jose Mourinho's state of mind that he instinctively tried to argue a case for Marco Rojo in the moments after the defender had launched himself into an off-the-ground tackle with two feet and so much force that Everton's Idrissa Gueye may be able to recall the words on the Argentine's tattooed thighs.
Mourinho reacted to the flashpoint by leaping into his technical area to remonstrate with Paul Tierney, the fourth official; perhaps pointing out that a few minutes earlier, Gareth Barry had escaped a booking after testing Zlatan Ibrahimovic's appetite on a freezing Merseyside afternoon.
There was no doubt Barry deserved a yellow card. Rojo, however, merited a cold shower. Later, Ibrahimovic was lucky to stay on as well after his studs met Seamus Coleman's head.
Michael Oliver is one of the better referees in the Premier League. Perhaps he did not see Ibrahimovic's apparent dark art act in the midst of a fallen heap because play had quickly been recycled to another area of the pitch. His decision not to end Rojo's involvement, though, means there is every chance he will be afforded an opportunity by his bosses to get Christmas shopping done next weekend.
Mourinho's day was probably best described as taxing. He had awoken to headlines about the creative abilities of his accountants and United would have won here had it not been for the clumsiness of Marouane Fellaini, who, having been introduced as a substitute only four minutes earlier, conceded the penalty as injury time approached that allowed his former club to equalise.
Spiritually, it feels as though Mourinho has crossed the Trent. Where once stood Brian Clough's Portuguese incarnate, now exists Jimmy Sirrel's phantom, a sourpuss notorious for his curt replies.
Mourinho was asked whether he blamed Fellaini for United's failure to deliver a victory. "I didn't see it," he responded. What about Rojo? Despite evidence to the contrary, there was the same answer. "I didn't see…"
Mourinho had rather more to say about the current standing of his team, speaking with almost evangelical positivity about their supposed creative football. That this draw takes them above West Bromwich Albion and 13 points behind top of the table Chelsea reminds of the stark reality: United have made their worst start to a Premier League season and, indeed, they could not see off an Everton team struggling desperately for confidence.
Aside from Rojo's kung fu display, the first half had been non-event until four minutes before the break when Maarten Stekelenburg deemed it necessary to react to Anthony Martial's pass by racing off his line in the direction of the main stand. The further Everton's goalkeeper travelled, the more he seemed to decrease in speed and by the time he met Ibrahimovic, it was as if he'd been stung by a poisoned dart. Twenty-five yards from goal, Ibrahimovic flicked out one of his long limbs and via the cross-bar and then the post, the ball finally spun over the line.
Goodison Park was unhappy and boos cascaded from the terraces at half-time. Everton had previously won just once in eight league games and Ronald Koeman's decision to drop Ross Barkley and captain Phil Jagielka from the start did not transform their play. Tom Cleverley was brought in for Barkley and he struggled to the point where his substitution for Gerard Deulofeu with 25 minutes remaining was cheered.
On the occasions goalscoring opportunities were created by Everton, David De Gea was equal to the volley released by Kevin Mirallas, the header from Ramiro Funes Mori from Deulofeu's free-kick and then Enner Valencia's weak attempt.
At the other end, Ander Herrera shot clanked against the angle of the post and the crossbar after the movement and pace of Henrikh Mkhitaryan - starting a league game for the first time since September - exposed Leighton Baines's defensive limitations.
Baines, though, can still be relied upon to deliver from the penalty spot and after Fellaini dangled out a leg to bring down Gueye, he rammed home the resulting kick with typical gusto.
EVERTON: Stekelenburg, Coleman (Holgate, 67 mins), Funes Mori, Williams, Baines, Barry, Cleverley (Deulofeu, 65 mins), Gana, Bolasie (Valencia, 68 mins), Mirallas, Lukaku. Unused subs: Joel, Jagielka, Barkley, McCarthy.
MAN UTD: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Darmian, Carrick, Herrera, Mkhitaryan (Fellaini, 85 mins), Pogba, Martial (Rashford, 82 mins), Ibrahimovic. Unused subs: Romero, Bailly, Blind, Mata, Lingard.
Referee: Michael Oliver
Man of the match: Phil Jones
Match rating: 6/10