Everton travel to the Theatre of Dreams, to hopefully keep their dreams of 4th alive, as they take on league leaders Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday. Everton fans were left with mixed feelings after an enthralling 3-3 draw with Aston Villa last weekend, on one side, it was nice to see the spirit of Everton rise again as they fought back from 3-1 down to snatch a point, however, on the other side, it was a poor Villa side at home and was definitely 2pts dropped, which could prove pivotal in the race for 4th. Manchester United are cruising results wise, performances haven’t been the typical United performances of recent years, but they are getting the results and it was again the case against Fulham last weekend as they won 1-0 to extend their lead to 9pts ahead of rivals City. This match will be a big game for both sides, Everton desperately need a win in order to remain within striking distance of Spurs in 4th and United need to keep winning if they want their 20th title and not to mention, I am sure they will look to exact a little revenge on Everton following the last two matches between the sides.
Everton summer signing Kevin Mirallas spoke about his fitness following his lengthy injury lay off and the trip to United on the weekend saying
‘I hope to be back at 100 per cent as quickly as possible, It`s all about getting some games under my belt now and playing regularly. Hopefully that form will come back as quickly as possible. Manchester United on Sunday is a massive occasion for us and will be a good test to see exactly where we are as a team. We`re a very good side and have a very good squad. Every weekend`s difficult but it`s a good test for us.
Manchester United manager SIr Alex Ferguson spoke about the threat Everton possess saying
‘It’s a tough game on Sunday, We were 4-2 up with seven or eight minutes to go. It was unexpected and we have to anticipate the unexpected in the run-in. That was a bad blow for us and it cost us the league. Everton are very experienced and, if you look at their record, they`ve only lost three games this season [the same number as United]. They’re obviously hard to beat. But the team is playing well, I`m pleased with their form and I`m pleased that the players we`re changing around, when I`m making different team selections, are buying into it well. They`re all contributing in their own way and that gives us a better chance in terms of dealing with the various competitions we`re in now.’
Manchester United Team News:
Manchester United have a couple of concerns ahead of the clash with winger Ashley Young a chance to return following a knee injury, which has sidelined him since the 2-1 win over Liverpool. Michael Carrick has also had a few question marks about his fitness after picking up a knock in the win over Fulham, but is expected to be fit for the match. Defender Phil Jones is also on the track to return from injury and could have an outside chance of featuring against Everton.
Possible Starting XI: De Gea, Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, Rafael, Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Kagawa, Rooney, Van Persie
Player to watch: Wayne Rooney
Hardly surprising given his history with Everton. His relationship with Everton and there fans has become more stable over the years. However, his boyhood club knows the danger Rooney possesses on the pitch, they only need to look at last seasons match at Old Trafford where he bagged a double to see his danger. Hasn’t had the best of seasons for United, but he seems to be finding his form once again in the most critical of times for United, and he bagged the winner for United against Fulham last weekend, so he is in decent nick for the Everton game. Everton defenders need to curb his influence on this game if they want a decent result from this match.
Everton Team News:
Everton’s major concern ahead of the trip is the fitness of star man Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian suffered a hip injury in the 3-3 draw against Villa and was forced to sit out of the midweek International for Belgium. The squad is starting to become full strength with the likes of Neville, Mirallas and Gibson all returning to first team action in recent weeks. However, they will still be without right backs Seamus Coleman (thigh) for another week or two and Hibbert for at least a month with a calf problem.
Possible Starting XI: Howard, Baines, Distin, Jagielka, Neville, Gibson, Osman, Pienaar, Mirallas, Fellaini, Anichebe
Player to watch: Marouane Fellaini
The big Belgian has been a massive thorn in the side of Manchester United recently. The game at Old Trafford last season and especially the match at Goodison on opening night this season, the Belgian was totally dominant and the main reason why Everton got 4pts from those 2 matches. Entering the match he does have fitness concerns, but given the importance of this match and the fact that he has been unplayable against United, I expect him to start. Ferguson and his defenders are going to have to try and stop his influence on the match because they can ill afford to let him run rampant again. If he does, then it will hold Everton in good stead for a positive result.
Match Facts & Stats
1. Everton captain and former United player Phil Neville will be hoping to make his 300th appearance for Everton. Neville joined Everton from United in 2005 after making 263 appearances for United.
2. Another former Red Devil Tim Howard will be looking to make his 250th appearance in the league for Everton, having joined from United in 2006 after 45 appearances for United
3. Combined, Everton and United have lost once in the last 26 league games, with Everton losing once in 13 and United being undefeated in their last 13.
4. Everton’s record at Old Trafford is horrific. Everton have not won at Old Trafford in the last 19 attempts, having lost 16 of those. Although last season’s 4-4 draw will give them some hope.
5. Manchester United have earned 27pts from losing positions this season, the highest amount in the league. Everton also have a very good record of coming back from losing positions having lost once out of the 13 times they have conceded the 1st goal.
Shaping up as a crucial games for both sides. Everton cannot afford to lose this one, especially if Spurs beat Newcastle, 6pts would represent a pretty big hole to try and dig out of, so they need at the very least a draw. United can move another step closer to securing their 20th league title with a win, however, they know they can ill afford to relax because they cannot give their neighbours a sniff after what happened last season. The last 2 games between Everton and United have given us a bit of confidence we can go there and get a result, it will be a huge task, but it can be done, especially since United have failed to cope with Fellaini recently and the big Belgian will play a massive part in the outcome of the game. However, United just find a way to win, especially at home and it will be extremely tough for Everton, however, I am going to go for a 2-2 draw. COYB!!!! SAME AS LAST SEASON LADS, EXCEPT LETS GO FOR THE 3PTS!!! COME ON BOYS!!!