There was a trademark Cristiano Ronaldo celebration at Old Trafford on Saturday, even if it didn’t come from the Portugal superstar himself.
Everton winger Andros Townsend did a cheeky yet passable imitation of the spin-in-the-air celebration in front of his team’s jubilant fans after scoring the 65th-minute equalizer in a 1-1 draw at Manchester United.
“It’s just a mark of respect to a guy who influenced my career,” said Townsend, adding he “probably didn’t do the celebration justice.”
With Ronaldo starting on the bench and not entering until the 57th, United produced another sloppy performance but managed to take the lead through Anthony Martial in the 43rd following an exquisite touch and pass by Bruno Fernandes.
Everton was dangerous on the counterattack throughout the game as United’s concentration and discipline waned in its third game in an eight-day span — and less than 72 hours after an energy-sapping home win against Villarreal in the Champions League that was sealed by Ronaldo’s stoppage-time goal.
And the hosts were picked off on a break by Everton that resulted in Townsend’s goal, as Fred failed to gather possession in two attempted tackles in midfield following a corner by United before Abdoulaye Doucoure charged through to set up Townsend.
After drilling a low shot into the corner from just inside the area, Townsend performed the Ronaldo-style celebration.
“I spent many hours on the training pitch and in the video room trying to analyze his free kicks and his step-overs and the way he dedicated himself to football,” Townsend said. “So it wasn’t an imitation. It was a mark of respect to one of my idols.”
It was a fifth goal of the season for the winger, who has been revitalized since his move on a free transfer after leaving Crystal Palace.
Ronaldo also has five goals this season after joining United for a second spell, but couldn’t add to that total in a quiet cameo after coming off the bench. He had one shot but it flashed wide off his left foot.
United dropped points for the third time this season and a week after losing 1-0 at home to Aston Villa.
“We should win this game,” Fernandes said. “We should create more chances. We should not concede that kind of goal. It’s not the first time and we have to look at our mistakes and see what we can do.
“These last two games at home was not good enough in the Premier League. If we want silverware at the end of the season, we have to do much better.”
Everton, which was again without first-choice strikers Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, looked to have snatched the win when Yerry Mina tapped in from Tom Davies’ pass in the 75th, again as United’s defenders switched off, but the goal was ruled out for a narrow offside. Davies could easily have shot himself, with just goalkeeper David De Gea to beat.
Everton is tied on 14 points with United after seven games in a strong start to the season under Rafa Benitez, a controversial hire in the offseason given his past links to Liverpool.
“We are doing well,” Benitez said. “We have some problems with injuries and still the team is working really hard and reacting really well. You can see the team spirit and the fans will appreciate that.”