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Manchester United slip up in top-four race

dpa logodpa 4/04/2017 Steve Douglas

Zlatan Ibrahimovic converted a penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time as Manchester United salvaged a 1-1 draw against Everton.

Winning the Europa League is looking increasingly like Manchester United's best chance of getting back in the Champions League for next season.

It's 20 English Premier League games without defeat for United after Zlatan Ibrahimovic, back from suspension, converted a stoppage-time penalty to salvage a 1-1 draw against Everton at Old Trafford on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST).

Ten of those games have been draws, though, and United is struggling to bridge that gap to the top four where Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City reside.

"One point or zero points, it's not a huge difference," said a glum-looking United manager Jose Mourinho.

United sit four points behind fourth-place City with nine games left.

Making the job harder is United's involvement in the Europa League, where the team is through to the quarter-finals and play Anderlecht in the first leg next week.

It means that in April, United has eight games - one every three or four days - and Mourinho has already suggested he might start prioritising his key players for the Europa League if his side's league performances don't start improving.

With five draws from their past six home games in the league, United is clearly stuttering domestically.

Ander Herrera and substitute Paul Pogba may have struck the crossbar either side of halftime, but Everton caused problems and defended well after Phil Jagielka gave the visitors the lead in the 22nd minute from a corner.

At times, United's play was chaotic and untidy, and they resorted to long balls by the end as Marouane Fellaini went up front alongside Ibrahimovic.

The pressure paid off deep in injury time when substitute Luke Shaw's shot was blocked in Everton's area by the hand of Ashley Williams, who was given a straight red card.

The clock had ticked into the 94th minute when Ibrahimovic slotted home the penalty.

It was hardly a celebratory mood inside Old Trafford after the final whistle.

"The performance was not very good," Mourinho said.

"The spirit in the second half was phenomenal, but with some players really in trouble - some by the physical point of view, some others clearly with the confidence levels low."

In other action, Leicester defeated Sunderland 2-0 while Burnley beat Stoke 1-0 and Watford defeated West Bromwich Albion 2-0.

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