On the 1st of January 2018, Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United will make the trip to Merseyside to face an Everton outfit still getting used to the business of Sam Allardyce.
Everton, remarkably, have yet to find their feet in the Premier League this season. However, since the appointment of Allardyce, the results in the blue half of Merseyside have looked reasonably better although that is not saying much given the state they were in before the former England manager took over.
After back to back wins against Newcastle and Swansea that helped propel them up to the top half of the table followed by an impressive draw away against the defending champions, the Toffees endured a disappointing defeat at Bournemouth in the weekend. Everton sit ninth in the league table – and with 9 points from the last six games they will go into this fixture in exactly the same form as their opponents.
On the other hand, Manchester United stuttered to another uninspiring draw in the weekend – this time a goalless stalemate against Southampton. A combination of injuries in key areas and a distinct lack of conviction in the final third has really come to the fore in the last few weeks and wrecked any slim chances of United catching up with their neighbours in the title race once and for all.
They start 2018 in third behind Manchester City and Chelsea, with the latter – Mourinho’s former employers, looking more like the team that could pose the strongest threat to the summit where Manchester City are comfortably sat in with a lead in double figures. Jose Mourinho will take his side to Goodison Park knowing any more slip-ups at this stage will drag them further down in a scrap for top four which is the last thing they would need with all the negativity already bogging down his camp.
Mourinho has confirmed Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be out for a month with a knee problem and Romelu Lukaku will be assessed after being forced off in the first half against the Saints with a head injury. Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia are all expected to miss out again, while Chris Smalling and Matteo Darmian are doubts after missing the last two games and Eric Bailly is a long-term absentee.
Former Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney is all set to face his old club for the second time since he returned to Goodison Park and Everton could also field ex-Reds Michael Keane and Morgan Schneiderlin. But Allardyce will be without Leighton Baines, Maarten Stekelenburg, Ross Barkley, Ramiro Funes Mori and Seamus Coleman.
- Jose Mourinho has lost none of his 11 Premier League meetings with Sam Allardyce (W8 D3), making him the manager the Portuguese has faced the most in the competition without losing to.
- Everton have won four of their eight home league matches against Manchester United since 2010 (D2 L2), after winning just two of their previous 19 against them at Goodison Park since the 1990s (W2 D3 L14).
Wayne Rooney – Everton
Wayne Rooney has had a distinguished career at Manchester United even after ignoring his last four years at the club when his decline year-on-year accelerated to the point where he became a liability for a side that wanted to compete at the highest level of the game. But the 32-year old has made a decent start for the Toffees scoring and assisting a combined 12 goals in 15 starts by far and away the top scorer at the club.
His big game experience over the years and the knowledge of his former teammates will prove crucial as he takes on his former club for the second time since he returned to his boyhood club in Merseyside.
Anthony Martial – Manchester United
United in recent weeks have really struggled at both ends of the pitch but their primary concern for a while has been the lack of goals at the club. Romelu Lukaku’s poor run of form has put a lot of pressure on the rest of the side to come up with the goods in front of goal but it is the lack of a proper attacking plan has hurt United the most in the final third.
But Anthony Martial, on his day, has the individual talent to beat the system as he has done quite a few times this season already. More of that is needed on Monday, should Manchester United take home all 3 points from Goodison.
Sam Allardyce is a master of setting a team up against a top side whose effectiveness will prove to be the deciding factor.