The first Monday night game of the season sees Manchester United travel to Goodison Park to face Everton, keen on starting positively in their hope to reclaim the Premier League crown. Everton will pose a tough threat with David Moyes creating a great squad on a low budget and already having scalps on United in the past.
Everton’s most recent pain on United saw them salvage a 4-4 draw at the end of last season, a result which helped Manchester City climb back to the top and win the title. The draw at Old Trafford also kept the Toffees above Liverpool in the table, a feat which is vitally important to the Goodison Park faithful. The problem that Everton always seem to face is their poor start to the season and Moyes will be keen to correct that worry. A seventh, or higher, placed finish will be a success for Everton considering their small budget, but there is genuine optimism that they can reach the European places this season.
Summer recruitment has brought young Scottish international Steven Naismith on a free transfer and the return of Steven Pienaar following his loan spell from Tottenham last season. Moyes may have lost midfielder Jack Rodwell to Manchester City and veteran forward Tim Cahill to New York Red Bulls, but Naismith will be used to link up with top scorer Nikica Jelavic. The Croatian exploded into the Premier League after his January transfer from Rangers and Moyes will be hopeful he can do the same.
Jelavic’s first test of the season will be against United, who welcome back Nemanja Vidic following his lengthy lay-off after damaging his cruciate ligament in last season’s Champions League game with Basel. Vidic was a huge loss for Sir Alex Ferguson last season and that lack of a commanding presence in defence was costly as United had to watch City snatch the title in the final minute on the final day. Ferguson’s side have dealt with losing the title on the final day before and followed up Blackburn’s title triumph in 1995 by winning the league and cup double the following season.
United ended the season without a trophy for the first time since 2006 and will be particularly worried with how poorly they performed in firstly the Champions League and then in the Europa League. Ferguson has recruited well with Robin van Persie signing a four year deal from Arsenal and young Japanese star Shinji Kagawa moving from German champions Borussia Dortmund. The Van Persie deal leaves Ferguson with a plethora of attacking options including Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez, a strike force reminiscent of the four United had when they won the treble in 1999.