Wayne Rooney continued to silence his doubters in an Everton shirt, as Manchester City gave further ammunition to those who wonder when they will finally get it right under Pep Guardiola.
Rooney’s 200th Premier League goal — he also scored his 50th and 150th Premier League goals against City — looked set to earn Everton all three points at the Etihad Stadium, until Raheem Sterling’s late equaliser salvaged a draw for the home side.
But while Rooney is making a habit of exceeding expectations following his return to Goodison Park, City showed once again in this game that the Guardiola era continues to splutter into life.
Rooney, offloaded by Manchester United this summer, made it two goals in two Premier League games for Everton since returning, and he did so in front of the watching England manager Gareth Southgate. Southgate names his squad for next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia on Thursday, and Rooney now has a fighting chance of being in it.
His international career seemed over last season after being omitted from successive squads by Southgate, but he was challenged to prove the manager wrong; and he is doing so at Everton, where he is not only scoring but also making things happen for his teammates.
The same cannot be said for Guardiola and City right now. Sterling’s goal ensured they got a point their performance deserved — especially after seeing Kyle Walker sent off in the first half — but this was an unconvincing performance. They lack the power of Manchester United, who top the table, and also seem to be overthinking their approach.
But this was ultimately a game between two teams who will be at the top of the Premier League this season, and when the dust settles, a point might be regarded as a good result for both.
2. Guardiola must keep it simple
Manchester City, despite their £230 million summer spending spree, are still a work in progress under Guardiola, but the manager is a big factor in the confusion and uncertainty that continues to affect his team. The past three Premier League champions — Chelsea twice and Leicester City — have won the title by getting the basics right and doing them well every week, but City never seem to do the basics under Guardiola.
Deploying Leroy Sane as a left wing-back with defensive duties was a bold move by Guardiola, and it was exposed as folly with Everton targeting the German during the first half. That they scored the opener through Rooney after breaking down that flank was no surprise.
Danilo, a summer signing from Real Madrid, started on the bench, with Sane handed the starting position ahead of the Brazilian defender.
At times, Fernandinho didn’t seem to know if he was coming or going, moving from midfield to wing-back, constantly looking toward Guardiola for guidance and instruction.
And Kevin De Bruyne, so often a match winner from attacking midfield, was forced to play just in front of the back four.
The first-half sending off of Walker didn’t help matters, but Guardiola makes things too complicated at times, and there are too many square pegs in round holes.
3. Everton can challenge for top four
Everton are about more than Rooney, and so they should be after spending in excess of £140m on new players this summer.
But despite losing Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United, Ronald Koeman has invested the transfer money well, and Everton showed against City that they have the ability to mount a sustained challenge for a top-four finish this season.
They look strong and well-organised at the back, with goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and centre-half Michael Keane making impressive starts to life at the club.
Leighton Baines remains one of the best left-backs in the Premier League, and Mason Holgate offers promise at right-back.
Koeman also has recruited well in midfield, with last summer’s arrival Idrissa Gueye dominating this game with his tenacity and ability to win the ball and find a teammate with the pass.
And up front, the 20-year-old Dominic Calvert-Lewin provided the movement and industry, giving City’s defence countless problems throughout and affording Rooney the space to make another big impact.
Koeman still has money to spend, and he will push hard to sign a striker and winger before the deadline, so Everton will only get stronger as the season wears on.