The FourFourTwo Preview: Man United vs Everton
“You are cordially invited to Moysie and Marouane’s new digs. Bring your own wine.”
There are unbeaten runs and there are unbeaten runs. Manchester United’s now stretches to 12 matches, their last defeat coming at home to West Bromwich Albion in September, but that includes five draws, some against very beatable teams in Real Sociedad and Cardiff.
MAN UNITED FORM
- Spurs 2-2 Man United (Prem)
- Leverkusen 0-5 Man United (CL)
- Cardiff 2-2 Man United (Prem)
- Man United 1-0 Arsenal (Prem)
- R Sociedad 0-0 Man United (CL)
- Everton 4-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Everton 3-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- Palace 0-0 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 0-0 Tottenham (Prem)
- Aston Villa 0-2 Everton (Prem)
Sunday’s draw against Spurs represented a good point in that the visitors twice came from behind, but it seemed like a game Sir Alex Ferguson would perhaps have attacked with more gusto, certainly in the closing stages. David Moyes seemed happier with a single point than Andre Villas-Boas.
The 1-0 win over Arsenal was supposed to mark the beginning of Moyes’ Manchester United, but it’s been followed in the league by two 2-2 draws, two too many for a team targeting the tootle – sorry, title.
Everton can relate: last weekend’s 4-0 marmalising of Stoke followed three consecutive draws. Against the Potters, though, they displayed a ruthlessness not always associated with either Everton or Roberto Martinez, something they’ll need to bring to this game.
Romelu Lukaku can’t stop scoring (making him the polar opposite of Nikica Jelavic) and 19-year-old Gerard Deulofeu showed on his first Premier League start why he won Player of the Year for the Spanish second division last season.
These are exciting times for the Toffees. However, if they’re going to turn Martinez’s belief that they can reach the Champions League into a reality, they can’t fear the champions. Instead, they must show Moyes that they can succeed without him.
For the visitors, Bryan Oviedo will continue to deputise for Leighton Baines at left-back, while Arouna Kone and Darron-ron-ron Gibson are long-term absentees (or absent-KNEES, right? Yes? Never mind).
Manchester United should welcome back Robin van Persie from a groin injury, though it’s touch-and-go, and are without central midfielders Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher.
It’ll be interesting to see if Marouane Fellaini starts. Nobody knows the Belgian’s strengths better than his former Everton team-mates – and the same goes for his weaknesses, especially in his mentality. Discretion may be the better part of valour for Moyes in his team selection.
Key battle: Wayne Rooney vs Phil Jagielka
Actually, this could easily be Rooney vs Sylvain Distin too. Both the latter and Jagielka have been integral to the Toffees' excellent backline that has conceded fewer goals than 15 other sides this season - including five fewer than United.
They both feature in the Premier League's top five clearance makers - Jagielka third (126) and Distin fifth (120) respectively - but on Wednesday night they're up against the in-form Rooney.
In Van Persie's absence it was the former Toffee who stood up to be counted at Tottenham on Sunday with both United goals in the 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane. But it's not just his net-ripplers (eight of them) causing problems - with five assists he's the Premier League's joint-second highest goal maker.
All in all he's doing rather well this campaign. You could even say it's the kind of form Garth Crooks would raise a glass of champagne to.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Man Utd 2-0 Ev'ton (Prem, Feb 13)
- Ev'ton 1-0 Man Utd (Prem, Aug 12)
- Man Utd 4-4 Ev'ton (Prem, Apr 12)
- Ev'ton 0-1 Man Utd (Prem, Oct 11)
- Man Utd 1-0 Ev'ton (Prem, Apr 11)
Moyes appears to be settling into the Manchester United manager’s chair, even forming his own bum groove after 27 years of work from the previous occupant. Beating his old team wouldn’t bring him any great joy, you’d expect, but he knows a win is vital to his ambitions of winning the tootle (title, damn it).
Martinez is getting the best out of players, being patient with Deulofeu, trusting Ross Barkley, as Everton play nice football with an end product, all in a rather smashing kit.
There is a suspicion of short-termism, however. Lukaku and Deulofeu, the star turns in their last two games, are both on loan, as is Gareth Barry. But of course, if Everton qualify for the Champions League they can buy who they like next season.
Facts and figures
- Everton have won none of their last 20 Premier League games at Old Trafford (W0 D4 L16).
More facts at FFT's Man United vs Everton Stats Zone page
Tips and trends
TIPS & TRENDS
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- This will be the first time David Moyes takes on his former team, with Everton currently above United in the table.
- Manchester United have led at half time in seven of their last 10 home games against top-half teams.
- United’s record without Robin van Persie is W2 D2 L3 since the start of last season and they’ve failed to win any of the four games he’s missed this term.
- Everton have won just one of their last 10 road games at top-six sides, conceding first in three of their last four trips.
- Everton have lost fewer games than any other team this season (1) but no side has drawn more matches (6).
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A lively score draw, with Lukaku and Rooney on the scoresheet.