Manchester United v Everton
English Premier League
Old Trafford, Manchester, England
Sunday 10th February, 2013
Referee: Mark Halsey
Manchester United will already be in the driving seat before the first whistle blown at the Old Trafford on Sunday. Manchester City, their title challenger lost 3-1 at the hands of Southampton on Saturday afternoon that presents a great opportunity for the Red Devils to increase the lead at the top of the table in the two-digits figure.
North London clubs Tottenham and Arsenal, other top four contenders, won their respective matches against Newcastle and Sunderland yesterday that leave Everton with no choice rather than aiming for full points against United.
Manchester United Preview
United have now won three games on the trot since the draw against Spurs at White Hart Lane, beating Fulham twice and Southampton in between. They are on a 13-match unbeaten streak and amassed 35 points from a possible 39, their best run of form since a 29-game unbeaten run between April 2010 and February 2011.
Any discussion about United and their chances of lifting yet another title is incomplete without bringing Robin van Persie into it. The 29-year-old was signed in the summer for a hefty fee of £24m from Arsenal. Many pundits opined that given his insalubrious injury records the signing was a gamble. Gamble may be but what a gamble it was. Having scored 23 goals already this season, the Dutchman has proved that he is no one-season wonder and his impact at the club has been compared by Sir Alex Ferguson himself as “Cantona-esque”. To make the matter spicier, England international Wayne Rooney has also joined the goal scoring party, scoring five times in his last five appearances for the club.
The only major headache for United is their bedraggled defence. It doesn’t give any good reflection when the league leaders of one of the best leagues in the world have conceded 31 league goals, more than any other teams lying in top three, in all the major European leagues in the world.
Injuries and suspensions
Ferguson criticized the Premier League for failing to make sacrifices for the top teams as the Scotsman was furious with the unfair scheduling of this televised game. He insisted that with the tough Champions League fixture coming up against Real Madrid on Wednesday, a radical squad rotation is highly possible.
United will be boosted by the return of Michael Carrick, Phil Jones and Ashley Young, all missed out England’s friendly with Brazil at Wembley on Wednesday.
David Moyes has done a remarkable job since taking charge at the Merseyside club almost a decade ago. The way he manages to keep the club competitive each and every season with a shoe-string budget available to him is praiseworthy.
However, this season was probably the time when he should have been given some funds to carry out some transfer activities. Since 2005, this is probably their best chance of finishing in top four (given their parlous financial situation now) and Moyes also understands that. They are currently sixth in the table with 42 points from 25 matches and a victory against United will take them above Arsenal in the fifth place.
Everton have lost only two matches away from home, while suffered only one defeat at home throughout the season, but their problem is they have drawn (12) too many matches. Belgium international Marouane Fellaini has been their top performer this season, although his future has been under constant speculation in the media. Moyes will be particularly pleased with the contributions of his strikers, especially Victor Anichebe who has scored five league goals already in eight appearances while Croatia striker Nikica Jelavic has found the net seven times already.
Injuries and Suspension
Everton will hope that Fellaini will play this crunch tie despite missing out for Belgium with a hip injury. Phil Jagielka could return to the side and will be asked to play on the right back position as Tony Hibbert and Seamus Coleman both ruled out.
Moyes has praised Steven Pienaar ahead of the match saying the midfielder is enjoying the form of his life and is expected to play a major role on Sunday.
Manchester United v Everton stats
Manchester United have 62 points from 25 games so far and it is top-flight club-record, beating their previous 60 points achieved six seasons ago.
Everton have shown great resilience and spirit this season and have picked up 21 points from losing positions, more than any other teams apart from United who bagged 27 points from similar positions.
Head to Head
Last time the two teams met at Old Trafford, it was a thriller in every sense. The result turned the vicissitudes of United’s season completely as the game finished 4-4 after the final whistle. With that draw, Everton became the fourth visiting team in the history of Premier League era to score four times at Old Trafford.
In 167 matches played in the league between the two sides, United have won 73 times while Everton have earned 54 victories, rest being draws. But, they haven’t won at Old Trafford in the league since August 1992. In the corresponding fixture, Everton won by a solitary goal and are seeking their first league double over Manchester United since the 1969-70 season.
Both the club are unbeaten in their last five matches. While United have won four out of their last five games, Moyes’ side have managed two wins only. Their only draw came at the White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur while Everton’s victories have come against West Brom in the league and Bolton in the FA Cup.
Manchester United v Everton Prediction
United have a huge game coming on against the La Liga giants three days from now and much of the media attention has been centered on that match only, but Ferguson will be equally keen to take the lead in the league beyond City’s reach.
The situation is bit different from last season and probably United won’t make the same mistake again. Everton will make the job harder but expect United to see off the challenge in style.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Everton