Manchester United travel to Everton on Monday for the 185th meeting of the two sides (in all competitions). Manchester United won the fixture 1-0 last term, with a goal from United forward Javier Hernandez. Everton fought back from two goals down to draw level at Old Trafford in an extremely entertaining 4-4 draw, which saw United lose their edge in the title race with Manchester City. Here we preview the first game of the Premier League season for both sides. If you are interested in getting down the bookies, United are favourites to win the game.
Robin van Persie
Where else could we start? Manchester United signed Van Persie on Friday and is available for the fixture at Goodison. The Dutchman scored a sublime volley against United’s opposition at the Emirates last season as Arsenal won both fixtures 1-0.
Many reds are still in shock at the signing of one of the best players in Europe. Van Persie was the best forward in England last season and notched up 30 league goals and will probably start on Monday, despite not having much of a pre season. Last term, United played 4-4-2 with Wayne Rooney off of the Mexican, whilst Danny Welbeck start wide right. I predict that Van Persie will start up top with Wayne Rooney floating off of him. Nik has explored a number of possible starting lineups including Van Persie.
Will Sir Alex start Van Persie as he did Berbatov (against Liverpool) in 2008?
That 4-4 game
Was it the game United threw the league away? Quite possibly, but then again a title is won over the course of a season. United lost the league on goal difference, it was THAT close.
At 4-2, Patrice Evra had a header smash against Tim Howard’s post, which had it gone in – would have ended the tie. Everton rode their luck and fought their way back into the game quite brilliantly. Welbeck’s superb strike combined with a excellent goal for Wayne Rooney, following Welbeck’s movement, were both forgotten as man of the match Marouane Fellaini and co equalised.
Those United players that were on the pitch that day will no doubt have that result at the back of their minds. It wasn’t that long ago (2010/11), although United ended the season as victors, that United drew 3-3 having led Everton 3-1 at 90 minutes. United have had a decent run of results at Goodison Park over the past ten seasons (won 6, drawn 2 and lost 2), with the epic 4-3 in February 2004 standing out (United led 3-0, before a Wayne Rooney inspired Everton fought back to 3-3 – Ruud vanNistelrooy hit the winner in the last minute).
January signings always go one of two ways. Either a player joins and has an instant, positive impact; or the player struggles to adapt and needs longer to settle in. For 18 months, Jelavić had been a success at Rangers and so the £5m Everton paid for him seemed about right. His first months playing for the club couldn’t have gone any better though – the stats show nearly a goal a game in the league which is always impressive. However, it was his all-rounded ability that caught the eye more than anything. Comfortable leading the line, dropping off, and running into the channels, he’s a clever striker. For a big guy he’s unsurprisingly useful in the air but also has a delicate touch, capable of scoring goals that require a soft touch and accurate finish rather than pure power.
This time round there’ll be no surprises when United face him. Vidic and potentially Carrick will have to keep a close eye on him and not allow him any space.
Predicted United XI:
Rio Ferdinand is out of the clash at Goodison tonight, meaning that Sir Alex may have to deploy Michael Carrick alongside Nemanja Vidic. The midfield duo of Tom Cleverley and Paul Scholes will have their work cut out in dealing with the aerial threat of Marouane Fellaini, who won nearly all his duels in the 4-4 draw last April. The main discussion point before kick off will be “will Robin van Persie start the match?” – I can’t see any reason as to why the Dutchman will not start up top alongside Wayne Rooney. Everton have brought back Steven Pienaar from Spurs; Steven Naismith from Rangers; and Kevin Mirallas from Olympiakos – the latter may not feature tonight though.
Ferdinand’s injury is a massive blow to United, however Carrick has filled in at centre half a number of times before and will sweep behind Vidic, who will no doubt look to attack the ball as much as he can. There is a bit of a debate as to whether Valencia could start at right back or will it indeed be Rafael. If Valencia does start, then Nani should come in on the right hand side. For now it might not be ideal for Kagawa to start from the left but expect the attacking players to be pretty interchangeable and all will have license to roam. Not the easiest of ties to start your campaign with, but I think United will win it 2-1.