The comeback kings of the Premier League clash on Sunday. Gaining 27 points from losing positions, Manchester United play host to an Everton side which have gained 21 points after falling behind. Everton will travel with confidence given recent results against United. After last season’s 4-4 draw dented their host’s title push, Marouane Fellaini bullied the Red Devils throughout the opening day win at Goodison.
However, in order to continue their recent improvements in this fixture, Everton will need to overcome United’s formidable home form and their dismal Old Trafford record. Since a 3-0 win in August 1992, 4 draws and 15 defeats mean Old Trafford is anything but the Theatre of Dreams for Everton. Yet to win away at any of the ‘Sky 4′, there has never been a better time for David Moyes to put that right.
Based on United’s recent home form, an inspired performance is required from Moyes’ men. On home turf, this red horde is dominant winning their last nine. The goals flow with alarming regularity as well, Wayne Rooney and company have scored two or more in 15 of their last 16 at Old Trafford.
For the first time in months, Everton have almost a fully fit squad. Kevin Mirallas and Darron Gibson are back after injury. Gibson is particularly vital and Everton are still unbeaten with the Irishman on the pitch, a run that stretches to 22 league games. Tony Hibbert (calf) and Seamus Coleman (thigh) remain sidelined but Marouane Fellaini should recover in time (hip).
The home side are without Darren Fletcher (colitis); the midfielder is out for the remainder of the season. Phil Jones (shingles) and Michael Carrick (hip) have recovered from the injuries that kept them out of the England squad in midweek. Ashley Young (knee) is also available for selection after his injury kept him out for longer than expected.
In case it was in any doubt, a creativity comparison shows the quality of Everton’s left side. The Leighton Baines – Steven Pienaar pairing accounts for 43% of Everton’s chances this season and United will be keen to stop them. Creating 84 chances, Baines is the first player in Europe’s top five leagues to fashion over 80 scoring opportunities this season. Comparatively, the front duo of Rooney and Van Persie has created 76 between them, a glowing reflection on Baines’ performances this season.
The table also highlights the strong but fleeting impact of Kevin Mirallas. Playing just 813 minutes this season, injuries have plagued the Belgian in his first season. That said, the former Olympiakos man is Everton’s fourth most creative player and only Baines (26) and Pienaar (38) can top his minutes: chance ratio (40). Keeping Mirallas fit is vital as he adds another dimension to the team.
Aerially, United have a clear edge and may look to exploit it. The Red Devils have scored 13 headed goals this season – a league-high. At the other end of the scale, Everton have conceded a league-high of 12 headed goals. Usually an area of strength, the concession of headed goals is rapidly becoming Everton’s Achilles heel.
Fans will want to be on time for this one, as the first halves of Everton matches have proven eventful. Everton have scored the highest proportion of first half goals in the league (58%). The Toffees also have a habit of conceding early with a league-high 30% of goals conceded within the opening 15 minutes.
Looking to end a 20-year drought at Old Trafford, an Everton win would be their 600th away win in league football. Whilst needing to show the attacking intent evident in last season’s fixture, Everton have to improve defensively with just four clean sheets to this point. Only Wigan and Reading boast fewer clean sheets this season (3). If they tighten up in defence, Everton have the firepower to get a result on Sunday.
62 – Manchester United’s 62 points from their opening 25 games is a top-flight club record
84 – Leighton Baines is the first player to create 80 chances this season
250 – Tim Howard will make his 250th Premier League appearance for Everton
300 – Phil Neville is set for his 300th Everton appearance
1969-1970 – The last time Everton did the double over Manchester United.