Tonight’s match between the 1st & 6th placed teams brings on the clash between two Historical team as well as two managers who are famous for their longevity as one club managers. While a win for Manchester United tonight would put a clear daylight of 12 points from the neighboring rivals, a win for Everton which is highly unlikely, still would put restore them back to the 5th place ahead of Arsenal.
If there was any one fixture that Sir Alex and his men would be wary about from a string of fixtures, Everton would definitely be one of them. Everyone who followed the Premier League last season would surely acknowledge that a draw against Everton last season at Old Trafford after being 4-2 up with just 7 minutes to wind down was a major blow, why Manchester United lost to their neighboring rivals City on goal difference. This routing was followed up with a 1-0 victory at Goodison Park for Everton on the opening day of this season. In the last 7 times these two sides have met in Premier League, Manchester United have won Thrice, Everton have won twice & honors have been shared equal twice finishing 3-3 and 4-4 which were a goal scoring fest for the fans to witness. The last time The Red Devils beat Everton comfortably was during the 2009-10 season, 3 years ago with a 3-0 win.
These series of results has shown that Everton as a team have been a prolonging nemesis for Manchester United. There is simply one reason for this – Manchester United’s midfield is a piece that is Work in Progress, where the new players have been learning and the stalwarts like Giggs, Scholes are nearing towards their fag end of their career in addition to the existing faithful like Anderson, Fletcher have been struck with Injury for a long time. These bits and pieces of showstoppers has put the onus on their wingers to help out attacking, thereby playing into Everton’s hand.
On the other hand Everton are looking a formidable team with their midfield pulling the strings together time and time again when they have been pushed towards the corner. Their never say die attitude is also a strong motivating factor which might have been cascaded down from their Scottish Manager, David Moyes. Everton have squeezed out Manchester United to hurry them into making a mistake, thereby troubling them over the past few seasons and giving the current league leaders a run for their money.
Wayne Rooney will once again take to the field against his former side, trying to continue his impressive goal scoring fortune towards the second half of the season, currently having scored 8 goals in his last 7 matches. The England Hitman has rediscovered his goal scoring prowess after having a bad time in front of the goal. Though he was piling in the assists to his new attacking partner Van Persie, when a player like Rooney doesn’t score often would certainly give an impression something is wrong upfront. The current season has been a bag of mixed feelings for Wayne because he has been seen evolving himself into team player having played in the Wings, midfield and also drifting at times to the defense to help clear the ball. He himself accepted that, he has enjoyed having a versatile role this season and learning to do a different job for the team apart from Goal Scoring. The only position he hasn’t played yet is De Gea/ Lindegaard’s role in front of the posts. Having scored twice in the last season’s 4-4 draw at Old Trafford, the English Hitman will be looking to continue the form and trend tonight when The Red Devils aim to go 12 points ahead of the Defending Champions Manchester City.
Everton are 5th in the league currently and they have to thank inform, goal scoring attacking midfielder, Marouane Fellaini who has scored 10 goals this season in Premier League. A thumping header which won them the opening day fixture against United this season started his fairy tale story for this season. This midfielder has been an evolving threat for the past few seasons, especially whenever he takes to the field against the Red Devils. This season has finally shown us all what Fellaini as a player can offer, be it his winding runs into the box to score goals (or) the Thumping headers he knocks into the top corners, he is an asset any team manager would like to have in this form. But having suffered a hip injury while on International Duty, it is still unknown if Fellaini would start the match to give The Red Devils a headache.
Manchester United has conceded 31 goals and Everton have conceded 30 goals this season. Though this is an alarming number of goals to have been conceded, much of them were in the first half of the season. Last 6 to 7 matches in the Premier League has seen them both tightening their defensive screws with Manchester United winning 3 clean sheets (which is much less than the amount they won during the 1st half of the season), Everton winning two clean sheets in their last 6 matches with 2 goalless draws. Still if Everton & Manchester United want to find them in a stronger position for the rest of the season, it is high time this consistency continues with Everton chasing a Champions League spot and Manchester United taking on Real Madrid in Champions League.
Despite having put inspiring performances at the back that earned him the man of the match against Fulham, De Gea still needs to improve in his defensive communication which would prevent giving away soft goals and work on his Aerial skills from set pieces. Communication is the sole reason why we have seen De Gea in front of the posts for a longer time, but tonight we could see the return of Anders Lindegaard, keeping in mind of the Madrid clash in 3 days. On the other hand, Tim Howard has been average this season not showing a single bit of confidence that is needed from in-front of the posts. This is a serious concern for David Moyes, to which he has yet to find a solution.
Sir Alex and Manchester United for the first time this season have a completely fitter side (Darren Fletcher being ruled out for the season) with Ashley Young who was out with a knee injury & Phil Jones who had a shingles problem returning back. With Madrid match in 3 days coming up, Sir Alex has not remained silent in venting out his fury at the Premier League Officials as Manchester United play on Sunday while Madrid have been able to reschedule their match thereby getting an extra day’s rest ahead of the big round of 16 match. Therefore, we can expect a lot of changes today especially with Van Persie and a number of key midfield players starting from the bench.
Man United (from): Lindegaard, De Gea, Amos, Rafael, Smalling, Evans, Vidic, Ferdinand, Jones, Buttner, Evra, Cleverley, Giggs, Anderson, Scholes, Carrick, Kagawa, Young, Nani, Valencia, Hernandez, Rooney, Welbeck, and Van Persie.
Everton do not have any concerns about any important matches coming up over the mid-week, thereby we can expect David Moyes’ team to be off full strength barring any injured players. Moyes is optimistic about the availability of Marouane Fellaini who has been nursing a hip injury. While the same applies to Phil Jagielka, despite sitting out during England’s International Friendly over the mid-week. Defenders Seamus Coleman and Tony Hibbert are sidelined with an injury though.
Everton (from): Howard, Jagielka, Distin, Heitinga, Baines, Oviedo, Naismith, Hitzlsperger, Osman, Pienaar, Fellaini, Jelavic, Mucha, Neville, Anichebe, Vellios, Gibson, Mirallas, Duffy.
It has been quite a long time now; these two teams were defeated last in Premier League with Manchester United continuing their run from mid-November and Everton having been unbeaten for a month & half from the beginning of the New Year. But this could well change this stat today, with both teams capable of dishing out that knockout punch to end the streak.
From the current side of the two teams, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Darren Fletcher are the top three scorers with 7, 4 and 3 goals respectively against Everton while Marouane Fellaini, Nikica Jelavic and Steven Pienaar are the top three scorers with 3, 2 and 2 goals respectively.
The below graph shows the period of time where both teams have scored maximum percentage of their goals. Clearly Manchester United have been lethal towards the end of the match with Everton currently following the same trend of scoring late as well.
Everton are a team that gives Manchester United a run for their money, but with The Red Devils in such good momentum, most that Everton can expect is a draw, while Manchester United will be raring to go all guns out which will give them the confidence to take on Real Madrid on Wednesday. A thrilling fixture like this would definitely enthrall us all.
Manchester United 2 – 1 Everton
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