A fourth consecutive home Premier League victory will keep Manchester United in contention for a Champions League place, and their latest opponents are an Everton side which has only lost once on the road all season.
If anybody believed that Marcus Rashford’s heroics in scoring four goals in his opening two games was little more than a flash in the pan and a case of another youngster receiving premature attention, he proved the wrong by winning the Manchester derby for United last time out. It capped a strong performance from the team as a whole as they kept rivals City at arm’s length throughout and kept their discipline, emphasising why they have such a strong defensive record this season.
It means the Red Devils are just one point City in the race to finish in the top four in a fascinating battle that could go right down to the wire with some other teams around them in the table still very much involved. The key to success here is not to allow Everton the chance to break away in numbers, as they carry the greater threat in terms of pace along with the clinical edge that is provided by Romelu Lukaku. But United are showing signs that their confidence is returning, so should expect to edge what looks set to be an open encounter.
‘We need to learn how to play at home in the league’, was the alarming confession made by Everton boss Roberto Martinez after their tame showing in losing 2-0 against Arsenal before the international break, just a week after they dismantled Chelsea in the FA Cup amid a raucous atmosphere at Goodison Park. The Spaniard will be as bemused as anybody at his team’s failings, with a series a poor results on their own turf the primary reason for lying 12th in the current standings.
This will be case of appearing more lively and cutting out the basic errors which littered their display against Arsenal. The number of stray passes was not befitting of a team with such ability, even without the supposed calming influence that Gareth Barry provides in the midfield. One man will surely be motivated, as Tom Cleverley takes to the pitch at his former club having yet to distinguish himself in an Everton shirt since joining in the summer.
Long-term absentee Ashley Young could be back for Man Utd along with Ander Herrera, but Bastian Schweinsteiger could miss the rest of the season due to a knee injury.
Barry is still suspended for Everton, who do welcome back Kevin Mirallas from a ban of his own. Elsewhere, Bryan Oviedo returns after a two-game absence.
Last Meeting: Some brilliant saves in the closing stages from David De Gea saw Man Utd hold on to a 2-1 victory in October 2014, which was sealed by Radamel Falcao’s first goal in English football. Fellow big-name signing Angel Di Maria opened the scoring in the first half before Steven Naismith’s header made up for a penalty miss by Leighton Baines shortly before half-time, but Falcao’s effort was enough for a home win.
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