Manchester United 0 Everton 0

Last updated : 30 August 2004 By Footymad Previewer

As the long drawn out transfer of Wayne Rooney to Old Trafford moves slowly to its conclusion, Everton showed why Manchester United need all the forward power they can muster.

Off the pitch, United were still awaiting an Everton response to their latest £24million offer for the 18-year-old England star.

On the pitch, Everton were winning their tactical battle against their more opulent South Lancashire neighbours.

United had their chances - they twice struck the Everton woodwork and goalkeeper Nigel Martyn made a string of fine saves - but only the most biased of home fans would deny the Merseysiders their point.

The result puts United seven points adrift of Arsenal and Chelsea at the top of the Premiership.

But, with the Gunners in awesome form and big-spending Chelsea the epitome of clinical efficiency that looks a big gap even with only four games played.

United will be able to call on Ruud van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane, Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown and new signing Gabriel Heinze over the next month, but it is in midfield where they lack imagination.

For the first 20 minutes, they were a poor second to a determined Everton team.

In the sixth minute, United's failure to clear up in midfield enabled Kevin Kilbane to go clear from inside his own half.

Home goalkeeper Tim Howard had to race 20 yards out of his penalty area to deny the Eire international winger, with the excellent Jonathan Spector and Kleberson completing the clearance.

Howard was forced into action again in the 19th minute, this time blocking an effort from Tim Cahill at point-blank range after he had been put free in the United box by Tony Hibbert's pass.

United began to awake from their slumbers in the latter stages of the half.

Cristiano Ronaldo tested Martyn with a vicious in-swinging free-kick from the left, while Kleberson beat Alessandro Pistone on the right by-line and his wicked cross to the near post was headed narrowly wide by Louis Saha.

Kleberson was again a thorn in Everton's side in first-half injury-time, testing Martyn with a fine 25-yard shot.

United were to prove a greater threat after the interval and came within a whisker of scoring in the 53rd minute when Ronaldo cut in from the right to hit a low drive from 20 yards which clipped the outside of a post.

Everton had appeals for a penalty turned down by referee Dermot Gallagher a minute later when Silvestre handled a David Weir header from Lee Carsley's free-kick.

But Mr Gallagher ruled against the Toffees, awarding a foul to United for what appeared to be an earlier push by Duncan Ferguson.

Manchester broke down the other end as Saha ran onto a long defensive clearance and fired in a shot from the right side of the box which Martyn did well to tip over.

United turned the screw even further when Alan Smith's low 20-yard drive hit the inside of a post and rebounded to safety.

In an exciting finale, Martyn had to tip over a header from team-mate Alan Stubbs and the Everton goalkeeper produced another excellent save to keep out a low shot from Paul Scholes, when he connected with a David Bellion cross three minutes from time.