Manchester United are nine point off Everton, who have played a game more.
Manchester United travel to Goodison Park to face Everton on Sunday, in what will be the 188th clash between the two clubs. Everton have four games remaining to try and beat Arsenal to fourth spot, whilst Manchester United’s season duly ended earlier in the month when the club went out 4-2 on aggregate to the reigning European Champions Bayern Munich.
David Moyes was ridiculed by the Everton supporters in the 1-0 defeat back in December, which obviously riled up the United boss as he has spoken recently about demanding more respect from the Goodison crowd. In the last five games at Everton, United have only won a single match back in the 2011/12 season, although United’s form on the road has been much better than at home this term.
We caught up Nic who blogs over at The Execution’s Bong and asked him a few questions on David Moyes (obviously), the talented Ross Barkley and whether United will win a trophy under Ferguson’s successor. You can follow Nic’s blog on Twitter @executionerbong.
1) How would you sum up Everton’s season so far? Happy with progress made?
Its been great. We’ve achieved our highest points total since the inception of the ‘epl’ with 4 games still to go and the progress in terms of evolving the playing style has been impressive. You’d be hard pressed to find a blue who wasn’t happy with the in-roads we have made this season irrespective of what happens in the next four games.
2) What happened against Palace and will you now finish outside of the top four?
We choked it! Our style under Martinez has been about a high press and patient build up play and deviance to pull opponents in and then exploit the space. Against Palace we fired in 46 crosses (double the average per game) and stood off Palace showing them far too much respect. In short we didn’t do the things that had got us where we are in the table. I think one factor is there aren’t many players in the side who have been there and done it before and we perhaps lacked the know how. Unfortunately Arsenal have that and with their run in its theirs to lose now. But things can change very quickly in football so you never know.
3) What have you made of Liverpool this season? Will they win the Premier League?
They’ve been very impressive, which is a pity. As much as I don’t want them to do it I think they deserve it more than City and Chelsea based on what I’ve seen and I’ve mentally accepted they will win the league.
4) Who has been your best and worst players these this?
The new central midfield pairing of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy have been the best players for me. Barry in particular has impressed me with his range of passing, positional play and ability to kick opponents up the back side if it needs doing. McCarthy’s passing, high energy and covering of Coleman has also been one of the key features of our game this season and without him in the first half against Palace we really struggled. The loan signing of Traore and also the Kone deal haven’t really worked out due to injuries.
5) Is Roberto Martinez the right man to lead you forward next season?
Absolutely, he’s universally liked and respected by everyone at the club and the impact he has made in such a short space of time has been impressive. The players have spoken about how training is focused on attacking plays and how we can damage the opposition rather than changing our style to combat an opponent, which is probably the biggest change he has brought to our style. He’s also done really well with his substitutions to change games with his tactical tweaks and in getting the best out of players like Naismith.
6) Speaking of managers, did you think David Moyes would do so badly in his debut season at United? What are your thoughts on him since leaving Everton?
I don’t think anyone expected him to be this bad. I was really surprised he got the job in the first place. Whilst he was an excellent manager in his time at Everton I never expected United to give the job to someone with his limitations and reactive approach to the game. Since he left he has blotted his copybook in most Everton fans eyes by trying to strong arm us over Baines, mostly as it went against most of what he preached when he was at the club. That said, we are eternally grateful for him thunderspunking £27m on Fellaini who, like Moyes, was very useful for us but has his limitations at the highest level.
7) Can Manchester United ever win a major trophy under the guidance of Moyes?
I’d be surprised to be honest. Realistically he probably only has next season to achieve this even with his impressive powers of reducing fans expectations. Hopefully he can do it, but he’ll need to evolve his approach quickly as continuing to do the same things (as he likes to do) won’t win him a trophy.
8) You have some exciting young talent coming through the ranks – just how good is Ross Barkley and will you hold on to him for next season?
He’s recently signed a new deal and I don’t see him going anywhere for the next few years at least. He’s a really impressive player who can receive in tight areas, play with boot feet and recently he’s become much more consistent. In the few games he got a chance under Moyes he’d invariably get dragged off should he make a mistake and concede possession. which knocked his confidence. He still does this and can sometimes not release the ball as quickly as he should but Martinez has given him confidence to take chances and he has responded really well.
9) How confident are you going into your last four games? What will the score be against United on Sunday?
I think we’ll get 10 points from the 4 games, but that probably won’t be enough for 4th spot. Were pretty good at home and have only lost 3 games in the last 2 seasons at Goodison, so to lose 2 in a week would be a shock. I think losing to Palace will make us more proactive against United and whilst it will be a tight one I’d back us to edge it 2-1.
10) Give us a little known fact about Everton.
Despite the media obsession with our loans this season, loan players have only accounted for 16% of our starting appearances this season.