United ground out a hard-fought point at Goodison Park, surviving a second-half onslaught from Everton after utterly dominating the first period.
Darren Fletcher put the Reds ahead midway through the first half, and Everton were dependent on an inspired first 45 minutes from former United goalkeeper Tim Howard to keep them in the game.
A fired up Toffees side turned the game on its head after the break, however, upsetting United's rhythm and drawing level through Marouane Fellaini's towering header.
The second half was a far cry from the first, when United looked sharp from the very first whistle. Ryan Giggs and Fletcher in particular were inspired, dominating the central midfield battle against a Toffees side shorn of the suspended Tim Cahill.
The pair gave a masterclass in movement and one-touch passing. Giggs saw an early shot saved by Howard and Fletcher had a header deflected wide but, after 21 minutes, the pair combined to devastating effect.
Fletcher's initial blocked shot ricocheted to Giggs, 30 yards out. The Welshman threaded a perfect ball through to Fletcher, who had continued his run, and watched on as one touch bypassed Joleon Lescott, and a second slipped the ball between Howard's legs.
An already one-sided encounter looked like it become embarrassingly so as United, buoyed by the goal, surged forward in search of more. But for the efforts of Howard, who at one point made three fine saves in a minute, Everton would have been buried by the break.
First, the American tipped Ronaldo's 30-yarder round the post, then reacted brilliantly to keep out Nemanja Vidic's flicked header from the resultant corner. In the same passage of play, Giggs beat two players and curled an effort goalwards, only for Howard to tip it wide.
In a rare Everton foray forward, Vidic was booked for a lunging challenge on former team-mate Louis Saha. Giggs almost followed the Serbian into the book minutes later for exactly the same act, but referee Alan Wiley spotted that the Welshman had slipped.
Wayne Rooney, chasing his 100th career club goal just a day after his 23rd birthday, was almost able to celebrate his landmark at the Gladwys Street End, but was denied a clear sight of goal by a superb last-ditch challenge from Phil Jagielka.
At half-time, the main worry for United was that such dominance had yielded just the one goal. Everton's trademark pluck - on the field and in the stands - had been nowhere before the interval. After it, it was a different story.
David Moyes' side flew out of the traps, hurtling into challenges and whipping the home crowd into a frenzy. One such challenge - an after-the-whistle lunge from Phil Neville on Ronaldo, had United's players incensed, but referee Wiley opted to brandish just a yellow card to the former Reds defender.
That decision proved telling after 64 minutes, when Neville whipped in a superb right-wing cross, and giant midfielder Fellaini was on hand to power in a header.
The goal been coming, and matters could have been worsened a minute later when Rio Ferdinand underhit a backpass. Yakubu strode through on goal, but Edwin van der Sar did brilliantly to tip the Nigerian's shot onto the post.
United drew the sting out of Everton's approach in the latter stages, and twice could have snatched the points through Ronaldo. Firstly though, Yobo managed to deflect away his close-range effort, before the winger dragged a clear shot wide with just two minutes remaining.
Despite some five minutes of added time being played, that was the final meaningful act of the match. Although the Reds did well to weather a post-interval storm, Sir Alex Ferguson will undoubtedly see this result as two points dropped.
Everton: Howard; P Neville, Jagielka, Yobo, Lescott; Arteta, Fellaini, Osman, Pienaar; Saha (Anichebe 90), Yakubu (Vaughan 88).
Subs not used: Nash, Baines, Valente, Castillo, Rodwell.
Booked: Jagielka, P Neville, Fellaini.
Manchester United: Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Ronaldo, Fletcher (Tevez 77), Giggs, Park (Anderson 66); Berbatov, Rooney (Nani 69).
Subs not used: Kuszczak, G Neville, J Evans, O'Shea.
Booked: Vidic, Rooney, Brown.