Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson admitted that he decided to take off Wayne Rooney at Goodison Park today before the 23-year-old was sent off.
The former Everton striker, who was trying to score his 100th career goal on his old stomping ground, was eventually denied that chance by his Old Trafford manager when he was hauled off in the second half of the 1-1 draw.
Rooney had become involved in a heated incident in the 68th minute after he had been booked by referee Alan Wiley for a bad challenge on Mikel Arteta.
In the wake of the booking, Rooney clearly kissed the United badge on his shirt and gestured to the fans, who have always booed him since he left the club in 2004.
Such a reaction from the one-time Everton player was foolhardy at least, and the crowd were clearly incensed by such a reaction from a player who always claimed he was a die-hard Everton fan before his big-money move.
After the badge kissing incident, referee Wiley called Rooney to him for a lecture.
And within a minute Ferguson, already on the touchline, took off the England striker and sent on Nani.
Ferguson said: ''The crowd were reacting, I did feel he might get sent off so I had to take him off. I just didn't think the referee was giving our players proper protection, I saw some bad tackles and it is the referee's job to protect players.
''I don't know why he (Rooney) was booked and I had fears about the referee, the crowd were reacting and I thought he might be sent off. I had to take him off.''
The Rooney incident came as Everton were mounting a stirring comeback having been outplayed in the first half.
United could have been three or four ahead at the break, but had only a Darren Fletcher strike to their name.
Captain Ryan Giggs, in a central midfield role, had been outstanding, and Everton boss David Moyes admitted they set out in the second period to nullify that threat.
He said: ''He needed to put more pressure on people, and we talked at the break about how to stop Giggs.''
Everton's response was a full-blooded assault in the second period, with the game at times threatening to boil over.
One tackle from former United defender Phil Neville - now Everton's skipper - on Cristiano Ronaldo, enraged the visiting players with Giggs clearly remonstrating with his former team-mate.
Everton got their rewards when Marouane Fellaini rose to head home a Neville cross after 63 minutes.
Ayegbeni Yakubu then saw a shot pushed onto a post by Edwin van der Sar, and United were under intense physical pressure from then on.
Referee Wiley fought to keep control and booked six players - Phil Jagielka, Joseph Yobo, Fellaini, Nemanja Vidic, Rooney and Wes Brown.
Ferguson felt that United wasted the chance for a seventh successive victory, saying: ''We had good chances and played some fantastic football and we should have capitalised on that. At the end of the day though you cannot deny Everton the point.''
Moyes was just delighted with a point, only their second at home this season, and said: ''We are really pleased with how the players finished, especially against Manchester United and the way they are playing.
''A point against them at this moment is as good as a win as far as we are concerned.''
On the Rooney incident, Moyes added: ''Frankly, it is something I did not see. Maybe that question should be directed at someone else.''