It is one of the strange facets of football the timings of fixtures throughout the season. In the first fixture of the season at Goodison Park, Manchester United ran out 3-0 winners in Everton’s first game after the death of Howard Kendall. That game was also played immediately after an international break all that time ago in October and the sides once more line up to face each other post-International duties. Will that have any bearing on this weekend’s result? No one knows but the computer has thrown up another fixture post the international break with both teams looking for a result.
Manchester United’s season has certainly been one of their stranger campaigns in the Premier League. As Van Gaal has navigated lurches crisis after crisis, Manchester United have found themselves once more in with a shout of Champions League football next season. As Manchester City continue to stop playing football (unless their 4-0 victory over Bournemouth is a statement of intent for the rest of the season), it is United, along with West Ham, who are circling for that last position amongst Europe’s elite.
What I have found strange about United this season is how liberated they seem to play with so many injuries. With United’s grave injury list comes a better, more ‘United’ performance. Seemingly, when Van Gaal loses the likes of Schweinsteiger, Fellini and Rooney, Van Gaal puts faith in the kids whilst abandoning such a rigorous tactical structure. Without his lieutenants on the field to convey training ground orders, United look free and dangerous – take the Arsenal game as a case in point where they looked devastating on the break with Lingard, Herrera and the impressive Rashford.
So it may well be music to every United fans ears to hear that Schweinsteiger is out for the rest of the season and with Rooney still amongst the injured, United and Van Gaal may line up with the same care-free spirit that has seen such a turn round in their seasons fortunes against Everton.
Everton on the other hand aren’t in such a strong run of form. They are the great Jekyll and Hyde side of the season as Roberto Martinez see his team continually under-achieve.
Everton currently sit 12th in the Premier League and have a set of creative and attacking players that have delivered 51 goals this season, a tally only beaten by City, Spurs and Leicester. Every game they seem to feature in this season has become some crazy, ding-dong battle of who will score more and Everton strikers have truly had to score a lot to cover up for their defensive short comings.
It is hard to know what is in Roberto Martinez’s make up as a manager but defensively he really isn’t that great. Wigan scored goals, nurtured young talent and played with a style more befitting a mid-table club but conceded all too easily. Everton are not dissimilar with the same defensive frailties endemic with Wigan but on a more grandiose scale of a side built for the Top 6.
I’ve gone for both teams lining up in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 with this potentially being one of the most interesting games of the weekend with how United have been playing lately. All eyes will be on Romelu Lukaku. The young Belgian is an undoubted talent, destined for the highest level in the game and with Manchester United one of a multitude of teams keeping tabs on Lukaku, it would be typical for him to go out and have an absolute firecracker of a game.
Manchester United to edge this one for me, but it really could go either way if Everton turn up and decide to turn it on.
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog
Manchester United: de Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Rojo, Schneiderlin, Carrick, Lingard, Mata, Martial, Rashford
Everton: Robles, Coleman, Jagielka, Stones, Baines, McCarthy, Besic, Cleverley, Barkley, Deulofeu, Lukaku
Match Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Everton
Last Six Results
Key Players (Goals + Assists)