Manchester United will try to obtain the final English top-flight Champions League spot as they clash with Everton at Old Trafford on April 3rd, Sunday as the 2015-2016 Premier League season slowly draws to a close. United is currently at the sixth spot, tied on points with fifth-placed West Ham United and only a point away from rivals Manchester City, who are placed fourth.
Undoubtedly, it has been a disappointing season for Man United, but if Van Gaal can secure a top-four finish and deliver the FA Cup, there might well be grounds for the board to keep the Dutchman on board for the 2016-17 campaign. Indeed, Man United are also looking to record a fourth successive home victory in the league for the first time since April last year, when they managed six in a row. It still seems likely that Van Gaal will depart this summer, but there is still a lot to play for in the final weeks as they prepare for a busy April.
Everton was blanked by third-placed team Arsenal, 2-0, at their home field of Goodison Park on Match 19th. Forward Danny Welbeck opened the scoring at the seventh for the Gunners while striker Alex Iwobi scored his team’s second three minutes before the halftime break to hand the Toffees their second straight loss and third defeat in their last four outings.
Chelsea might have been the under-achievers this season, but Everton will run them close if they fail to enjoy a strong end to the campaign. The Toffees, on paper, have one of the stronger sides in the division, but the hard facts are that they are heading for another bottom-half finish, having ended last season in 11th position.
Van Gaal, in a conference recently, revealed that skipper Wayne Rooney is “doing great” in his recovery from a knee injury, but he will have to sit this game out. Full-back Luke Shaw, who has been out for the last six months, has also returned to first-team training with the Red Devils, but will remain on the sidelines for this match alongside Ander Herrera and Ashley Young.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is also facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines after picking up a knee injury on international duty with Germany, but the likes of David de Gea, Matteo Darmian, Juan Mata, Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial have all returned to Manchester free from injury following the international break.
Marcus Rashford is expected to continue in the final third following his winning goal against Man City last time out, while Michael Carrick and Morgan Schneiderlin are most likely to start in the two central positions.
As for Everton, Stones and Bryan Oviedo are both fit to face the Red Devils, while attacker Kevin Mirallas has returned to the squad after serving a suspension.
Stones picked up a knock on England duty, while Oviedo has missed Everton’s last two games with a chest infection. Stones could return to the heart of the defence, but Gareth Barry will miss out through a suspension of his own. Lukaku, who has 18 league goals this season and six in his last seven games in all competitions, is also expected to start at centre-forward despite a whole host of speculation surrounding his future.
Interesting Facts (Supplied by Opta Stats)
• After winning just four of the first 40 Premier League meetings with Manchester United (W4 D7 L29), Everton have won four of the last seven (W4 L3).
• The Red Devils have conceded just seven goals in their last 14 Premier League games at Old Trafford.
• Everton have lost just one of their last 14 Premier League away matches (W6 D7 L1).
• Romelu Lukaku is one of only four players to score a hat-trick against Man Utd in the Premier League (Dirk Kuyt, David Bentley and Samuel Eto’o are the other three).
• Lukaku has scored six goals in his last seven appearances for Everton in all competitions.
• Everton have scored with 18% of their shots at goal, making them the most clinical team in the top flight.
• The Red Devils are looking to record four successive home wins for the first time since April last year (six in a row).
• Manchester United have scored 999 goals in the Premier League at Old Trafford.
• The Toffees have suffered 199 defeats away from home in the Premier League. They have earned 499 points in total on the road.
• Manchester United’s win percentage in all competitions with Morgan Schneiderlin starting is 57%, compared to 35% without.
League Head to Head
17/10/2015 Premier League 2015/2016 Everton 0 – 3 Manchester United
26/04/2015 Premier League 2014/2015 Everton 3 – 0 Manchester United
05/10/2014 Premier League 2014/2015 Manchester United 2 – 1 Everton
20/04/2014 Premier League 2013/2014 Everton 2 – 0 Manchester United
04/12/2013 Premier League 2013/2014 Manchester United 0 – 1 Everton
10/02/2013 Premier League 2012/2013 Manchester United 2 – 0 Everton
Manchester United – Marcus Rashford
Teenage striker Marcus Rashford continues to surprise as he scored the lone goal in their last game right at the 16th minute before both teams went goalless for the rest of the way. It was the 18-year-old’s third goal in only four appearances in the domestic league this season as Louis Van Gaal persists on using him up front for the Red Devils.
Marcus Rashford could prove the difference for his side with Romelu Lukaku likely to struggle against a resolute Red Devils defence. Van Gaal may have led Rashford to water but that ability to pop up in the right place at the right time isn’t something you can coach. Goal poachers come and go and rely on chances being created – Rashford has already shown that he can also make his own.
This makes him different to a similarly slim-built player like Javier Hernandez, who while adept at turning up in the positions that lead to tap-ins, doesn’t really have the pace, technique and skill to create something out of nothing.
Everton – Ross Barkley
Barkley is finally living up to his billing in the Everton midfield. He has certainly developed into a top talent, and is enjoying the best campaign of his career this season, playing a starring role for Everton. The midfield positioning of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy has given Barkley the ability to spread out and create chances. Compared to last season’s 2 goals and 4 assists – and the season before that of 6 goals and 4 assists – this has been his breakout season.
Barkley appears to have the right mind-set and confidence in his abilities that will help direction him further. He stands at 6ft 2, therefore being better able to impose himself and his confidence has rocketed off-late. He has indeed become a lot more confident, and his decision making has improved as well, with better results as far as his performance is concerned.
The predicted result is another tough 1-0 win for Manchester United.