After copying Cristiano Ronaldo’s trademark celebration when he equalised for Everton, Andros Townsend was probably pushing his luck by asking the Manchester United star for his No 7 shirt at the final whistle.
‘Not imitating, it was just a mark of respect to a guy who influenced my career,’ explained Townsend afterwards, but try telling that to Ronaldo.
The request was brusquely rejected as United’s talisman headed down the tunnel still in possession of his shirt, the first player off the pitch for the second week running.
Last weekend, he didn’t hang around to see Aston Villa celebrate a famous win at Old Trafford. Seven days on, and it was the turn of an injury-hit Everton to congratulate themselves on a thoroughly deserved draw as Old Trafford came to terms with another disappointing result.
It is one that sends Ole Gunnar Solskjaer into the international break in worse shape than he would like to be. The six games leading up to it have brought three defeats and two wins, both by way of late goals. It could be considerably worse.
The problem for Solskjaer is there seems to be neither a coherent game plan nor signs of progress at the moment. United are making the same mistakes and often getting themselves out of trouble through moments of individual brilliance. Win, lose or draw, the performances are following a similar pattern.
Everton exploited their vulnerability on the counter-attack, just as Villarreal did on Wednesday night in the Champions League. Ronaldo got them out jail then but couldn’t do so against Everton after coming on as a second-half substitute.
His body language after Townsend’s equaliser on a breakaway from a United corner – and again when Yerry Mina thought he had snatched a late winner – spoke volumes.
If he didn’t know that this is a United team with significant room for improvement when he returned to Old Trafford in the summer, he does now.
While Solskjaer was able to send on Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Paul Pogba, Rafael Benitez had to call on Lewis Dobbin and Tom Davies yet Everton could easily have won here.
It won’t get any easy after the international break either. United face Leicester, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City in the Premier League and Atalanta home and away in the Champions League having made heavy weather of Group F so far.
Solskjaer knows it doesn’t take much for events at Manchester United to turn into a drama and for that drama to become a crisis. It is shaping up to be a pivotal month in the season.
This wasn’t how it was meant to be when Old Trafford welcomed Ronaldo home just three short weeks ago and he scored twice as Newcastle were thumped 4-1 here. The euphoria at Old Trafford that day was palpable.
It has been replaced by a cold reality that will hang over Solskjaer and his players during the international break.
Only they can take United to where they need to be – and there are no guarantees they will get there.