Manchester United welcome one of their long term adversaries to Old Trafford this weekend, as Rafa Benitez’s Everton come to town. After the poor displays of recent weeks, the manner of performance will be just as important as the result of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Meanwhile, the Toffees will be looking to make a statement of their own against one of the title favourites. It should be a great spectacle for the neutral. The visitors will feel they have the experience in the dugout to get a positive result.
Since the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, the results have been very inconsistent. They have managed to beat Newcastle United, West Ham United and Villarreal, but they have lost to Young Boys and Aston Villa. There has yet to be a complete performance with the Portuguese legend in the team. However, it would be unfair to lay the blame at his door. This has been a common theme under Solskjaer and the pressure is now ramping up on the manager. He desperately needs a higher level of performance if his team are to challenge for the title. This feels like a must win for the Norwegian.
Rafa Benitez had his fair share of doubters in the summer, following his controversial appointment by Everton. He is experienced and has been around the block enough times to deal with the situation. It has been an excellent start for him on the Blue side of Merseyside. They are in 5th position and just one point off the top. A win on Saturday would lift them to the summit, even if it is only for a matter of hours.
No player has had more shots without scoring than Paul Pogba. He has had 15 attempts on goal without finding the back of the net.
If Everton win, Rafa Benitez will become the first manager to win at Old Trafford in the Premier League with three different clubs.
The focus has been on Cristiano Ronaldo since his arrival at Old Trafford. However, that shouldn’t mean that the rest of the attack can take their foot off the gas. In fact, it should create more space for others to exploit. Greenwood has been one of the club’s best performers at the start of the season, but he will understand that he needs to maintain those levels to keep his place in the team. Marcus Rashford is nearing a return to action, while Jadon Sancho will find his form sooner or later. Last weekend, he was one of the only players who could leave the pitch with his head held high. Greenwood was a constant threat to Aston Villa and had eight attempts on goal during the contest. Further to his goal threat, he made three key passes and completed 87% of his attempted passes. If he performs to a similar level, he will be very dangerous on Saturday.
Benitez is very good at getting the best of the players that he has available to him. Abdoulaye Doucoure could be one of those that benefits most from the change of manager at Goodison Park. He has been returned to a more advanced role, in a similar position to where he was so dangerous with Watford. The early indications are that he can reach an even higher level for Everton. During the first six matches, he has managed to score twice and get three assists. This has already matched his goal contributions from his first season with the club. Manchester United can be very fragile in the midfield areas. Doucoure has the quality to have an impact on the game this Saturday.
Harry Maguire will be missing for a few weeks after being taken off last weekend. He has been left out of the England squad. The prognosis is more hopeful with Luke Shaw and he could even be available to feature on Saturday.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin remains on the sidelines for the visitors, but his strike partner Richarlison could be back to start on Saturday. Seamus Coleman and Andre Gomes are both facing battles to be passed fit.
Based on the recent performances of Manchester United, it is difficult to back them to win this weekend, even if they do have the superior players. Everton will be well drilled and they have a manager capable of targeting the weaknesses of the home side. The talent alone should be enough to get something for Solskjaer’s side, but they could drop points again.
Manchester United 1-1 Everton