Everton will host Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United at their fabled Goodison Park on Sunday although with not much riding on the fixture for either sides as both do quite look at the league table comfortably with no real threat from the teams just below them to keep them on their toes. The Toffees have built up some some much needed momentum ahead of a big game like this having won 4 of their last 5 games that has lifted them up to 12th on the league table after what was a lackluster first half of the season. Martinez sounded pleased as expected in his pre-match presser where he seemed to appreciate the recent ‘maturity’ shown by the squad, after they got knocked out of the Europa League. He said,
“Five games ago we had 28 points and we had to win points. I’m very happy with the reaction. Our recent performances at Goodison were very mature. I don’t think they were earlier in the season.”
Manchester United are in good form themselves and will go into this game on the back of a narrow 1-0 loss at Stamford Bridge which brought their 6 game winning streak to a halt. The Red Devils will look to bounce back to winning ways when they travel to face Everton at Goodison Park, the same fixture last season that ultimately ended a disappointing 10-month reign of David Moyes and it’s fair to say much has changed in the space of twelve months. Not to mention, a win at Goodison Park will complete a memorable Merseyside sweep for Manchester United, which should be something that the manager and the fans will be looking forward to on Sunday.
Everton’s Steven Pienaar is a major doubt for Sunday’s visit of Manchester United after struggling with muscle fatigue. However, fellow midfielders Leon Osman (groin) and James McCarthy (ankle) both returned to training on Friday and should be available. Striker Romelu Lukaku reported no after-effects from his first appearance in a month last weekend and his potential return to the starting eleven should come as a major boost for the home side.
While it is not exactly an injury crisis, Manchester United will miss a few key players for their trip to Goodison as Michael Carrick, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones are out of contention and Daley Blind is reported to be doubtful to start on Sunday. But the manager will have Jonny Evans available for selection after the defender has served his suspension and could feature during the weekend.
Everton have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the Barclays Premier League this season (19).
The Red Devils have won just three of their last nine away league games (D4 L2).
Everton have lost 31 Premier League games against Manchester United; four more than against any other opponent.
Manchester United have suffered a defeat in each of their last two Premier League trips to Goodison Park (1-0 in Aug 2012 and 2-0 in Apr 2014).
Aaron Lennon – Everton
Aaron Lennon has been one of the main reasons behind Everton’s late resurgence with the Englishman making a steady impact at his new club, after he was signed on loan for Everton in a bid to improve their attacking options during the January transfer window. The loan signing has clicked, it’s safe to say and Lennon is doing well bringing an explosive burst of pace and a bit of tenacity down the flanks to the side that has been lacking almost all of it this season. He’s scored two goals in 10 appearances displaying a lethal shot accuracy of 71% where 2 of his 5 shots on target have managed to find the net. It could turn out to be an interesting battle down that right flank at Goodison when Lennon and Coleman will come up against United’s most effective left side which could go on to determine the outcome of the game itself.
Chris Smalling – Manchester United
Smalling has come leaps and bounds from where he was when he got himself sent off at the Etihad in November to putting in commanding and authoritative performances on a consistent basis and even chipping with some vital goals in the process, which was eventually rewarded with the ultimate prize – a contract extension. The 25-year old is starting to grow in stature at a crucial time in the campaign and the numbers he’s hit this season are quite remarkable. Chris Smalling has managed to make 131 clearances, 40 interceptions and 13 blocks in his 20 appearances where he’s also won a staggering 65% of his aerial duels. Although he’s won just 17 out of 40 tackles this season, Smalling has shown a rare burst of pace for a center half, completing 88% of his take-ons scoring 4 goals. With his best years ahead of him and a good number of them now sorted at his current club, he could be that key man for Manchester United on Sunday and also in the games to come to ensure they finish as high as possible.
Everton don’t lose at home very often. But I reckon this Manchester United side can end their mini-hoodoo at Goodison this weekend, if they could do what they did at Anfield.
And before I forget, Fellaini to score the winner.
Everton 1-2 Manchester United