Both sides are coming into the game with indifferent form, which makes this weekend’s match an interesting one for the neutral.
It is Manchester United that need the win a lot more as they need to begin making up ground on the leading pack. If they put together a good run over the festive period, they will become contenders for a top-four finish once again and that is where they need to be come the end of the season. Whereas, Everton will have aspirations of pushing for the top six, but it is only the first season of Ronald Koeman’s reign and it could take time before they are good enough to be challenging the best teams in the league.
Everton are currently only one place below Manchester United and a win on Sunday would move them above Jose Mourinho’s men. That is motivation in itself, but the Toffees are hardly coming into the game in good form. They have taken just one point from their last three league matches and have managed to score only one goal over that period. There is definitely food for thought for the Dutchman as he tries to rebuild the Merseyside club.
Meanwhile, Manchester United are eight points behind the top four, which is a huge concern for Jose Mourinho. The current United boss will know that results need to improve or he will risk being labeled a failure, something that has seldom happened during his career. There has been an argument that his side has been unlucky as they have drawn five of their last seven matches.
They should have taken more points with the chances that came their way, but they didn’t. During the week, they delivered a dominant performance to beat West Ham with ease to qualify for the semi-finals of the EFL Cup and it is now important that they use the confidence from that game to push on in the league.
In the two matches between the two sides last season, Manchester United managed to take six points. During the game at Goodison Park, goals from Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney led to a comfortable victory for the Red Devils. Meanwhile, at Old Trafford, a single goal from Anthony Martial was the difference between the two sides. Jose Mourinho desperately needs more of the same this weekend as he plots United’s rise up the table.
Everton have only won once in the league since the 17th September.
Since his debut, Anthony Martial has scored more goals than any other Manchester United player in all competitions with 21.
The Belgian striker has had a good start to the season, scoring seven goals and contributing a further three assists. At the age of 23, the pressure is on him to push on and join the top tier of strikers in Europe. He has started to make steps in the right direction and he will be on the radar of Champions League clubs, which is the level that he will be aspiring to play at. Ronald Koeman has admitted that Lukaku will have to leave Everton to fulfil his potential. That said, he remains an Everton player at the moment and he will be key to their hopes this season. They need to put an end to their recent bad run of form and will look to their leading scorer to step up his game against Manchester United this Sunday.
When at Chelsea, Lukaku wasn’t given opportunities by Jose Mourinho. This may give him that extra bit of motivation to perform against Manchester United to prove his former manager that he was wrong not to give him a chance.
United’s defence is far from solid, with Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones the first-choice pairing at the moment. Lukaku has the ability to cause those two endless problems if he is on top form. Everton need him to be if they are going to get the three points this weekend.
Manchester United need to have a near perfect Christmas period if they are going to become contenders for the top four and they need Zlatan Ibrahimovic to be among the goals if they are going to do that. The Swede has been better in recent weeks, scoring five goals in his last four matches in all competitions, this came after a run of six matches without one. Despite the doubts about whether he could reproduce his goal-scoring form in the Premier League, he is fast becoming Manchester United’s best players and he has the quality to fire them to a Champions League finish. The way he finds space in the final third is to be admired and there are few better finishers in the modern game than the 35-year-old. Everton haven’t looked solid at the back in recent weeks and their ageing centre halves will find it difficult to deal with the quality in the Manchester United attack. There will be opportunities for Ibrahimovic on Sunday and if he takes them, Manchester United should win.
Arouna Kone and James McCarthy are both closing in on a return to first-team action for the Toffees, but neither are expected to start this weekend. Muhumed Besic is on the long-term injury list and is not likely to feature until February.
Eric Bailly is back in full training for United and is in contention to be involved at Goodison Park this weekend. Chris Smalling won’t be fit, which means that at least one of Marcos Rojo or Phil Jones will have to start the game on Sunday. Wayne Rooney will be missing through suspension.
Although Manchester United have struggled to convert good performances into victories, they have been playing well and surely the tide will turn soon. I expect them to win this weekend as they come up against an Everton team in poor form. They never looked like they would take anything from the match against Southampton last weekend and I think they will struggle against an improving Manchester United team on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho’s side were excellent against West Ham during the week and that should provide them with the momentum needed to have a good Christmas period, starting with a win this Sunday.
Everton 1-3 Manchester United