Manchester United welcome Everton to Old Trafford on Sunday, looking for the club’s first back to back wins since beating Crystal Palace and WBA back in the spring. The visitors snatched a last gasp point at Anfield last Sunday when Phil Jagielka struck a beauty to silence the Kop. United are without captain Wayne Rooney, who was stupidly sent off for a rash kick at Stewart Downing last weekend in the 2-1 victory over West Ham United.
Before last season, Everton hadn’t won at Old Trafford since 1992/93. Bryan Oviedo gave the away side the lead and the eventual victory at Old Trafford back in December last season and Roberto Martinez will be looking for a repeat result having only picked up one win in six so far this season.
We have a great view from the opposition for you today, with two Evertonians answering questions for us. First up, is Nic Davies who blogs over at the Executioner Blog. You can follow Nic on Twitter @executionerbong.
We also caught up with Shaun Murphy, a season ticket holder at Goodison. You can follow Shaun on Twitter @shaunmurphy316.
1) You’ve had a bit of a mixed start. How would you sum up your season so far?
ND:Bit of a mixed bag to be honest. Going forward we’ve been really good and have been able to score almost at will against the top sides, although injuries to our first choice attacking midfield trio rendered us a tad powder puff last week. At the back however its been a car crash and we look a million miles away from getting back to the defensive solidity which has been our core attribute over the last decade.
SM: Expectations were pretty low at the start last season as we expected a season of transition (especially starting with 3 draws) however this season we had very high hopes. Yeah, the start has been poor however when you are habitual slow starters, this does not worry me too much.
2) How much have you missed Ross Barkley from injury? How good can he become and are you worried about losing him?
ND:Yeah we’ve missed him, mostly his ability to commit players in the ‘transitions’ when we win the ball back . We won plenty of games without him last season, though, and going forward we haven’t really suffered too much from his absence. I don’t lose sleep about losing players to be honest, ultimately every player has his price and he’ll probably move on one day. Until then I’ll enjoy watching him as he’s a really entertaining player capable of audacious skills and amazing goals.
SM: Ross is a massive talent who with the right manager can go on to become a world beater. He is built like a tank and only has forward gears. Any team would miss a player of his ability and it does not surprise me teams are sniffing around him, however he has his head screwed on right and knows he is at the correct club to develop and nurture his talent.
3) Is Roberto Martinez the right man to lead your forward?
ND:Absolutely. No manager is beyond reproach and some of his defensive tactics this season have taken brinkmanship to extreme levels, but were a hell of a lot more easy on the eye under his stewardship. There seems to be a sustainable vision he is trying to embed at the club, rather than the reactive approach which preceded him.
SM: Roberto Martinez philosophy, attitude and passion for football has transformed Everton into one of the most attractive teams in the league. This total football mentally where we build from the back does have its draw backs as it is risky at times, however he installs confidence in the team and ensures they learn from the mistakes that occur. The signing of Lukuka was a massive statement of intent and I do believe we will push on and break the top 4 within 2 seasons.
4) What have you made of you signings so far? Where do you need to strengthen in January?
ND:We already knew what Lukaku and Barry were about as we had them on loan last season. Besic and Atsu have only started one league game each and are both new to the premier league so will take time to settle – were probably looking at next year when they will really be able to show us what they can do. Eto’o looked ace against Chelsea and Wolfsburg in his brief cameos, scoring one and creating one, but then looked absolutely last in the Swansea and Palace games when he started. Browning is a youth from the academy who made his debut last week in the derby and looks a decent ressie option to Coleman.
SM: Big Rom has everything to become a world class striker (big, strong, quick) and at 28 million for a lad with proven premiership goal scoring predigree, I think this is an investment for the future. Barry for free is shrewd business whilst we do also rely on the loan buys, hoping Atsu can do what Deulofeu did last year. We might need to invest in a centre back as we have an aging defence that has been found wanting in the early part of the season (6 at home to Chelsea)
5) What have you made of Manchester United so far this season?
NDThe only game I’ve watched for 90 minutes is the Leicester game! Whilst that was a humdinger goals wise United’s defensive record is not bad apart from that, albeit you haven’t really come up against any strong sides yet. From the outside looking in there seems to be an imbalance in the squad, but after last season I guess high scoring games will be a nice relief for the fans.
SM: I’m am slightly surprised as Man Utd needed to invest in the summer however they have done in the wrong areas. They are missing a real leader at the back and at the club and need to strengthen up mentally. No striker is scared of going up against the Utd back 4 and I think they lack balance across the park.
6) Will Louis van Gaal get it right at the club or do you feel the Ferguson burden is still too strong?
NDHe’s an impressive coach and with the truck loads of cash and the attacking players at his disposal its going to be tricky to make a pigs ear of things completely. I don’t think its necessarily a given that you will return to regularly winning the league, though, no matter how much cash you throw at it. Look at Liverpool, they’ve spent more money than anyone since the inception of the premier league and have never won it. From what I’ve seen so far 4th spot is achievable for united, but thats perhaps more to do with how poor ourselves, liverpool and Spurs have looked so far.
SM: They will be there or there about in the top 6 this season, however it won’t be easy. He has a strong reputation and will install discipline but the Fergie legacy will linger over Utd for a long time to come.
7) David Moyes was a disaster at United. What did you make of his appointment, sacking and training methods following Ferdinand’s autobiography?
NDThe Moyes appointment was a disaster, and probably the most daft thing United did was letting Ferguson have an input. One man having such control was arguably one of the big factors in Ferguson’s success but equally so in why United have struggled so much since he left e.g transfer policy. Ferdinand’s revelations about chips actually made him look more stupid than Moyes I thought. Whilst a great player Ferdinand has the brain the size of a pea and will always looks to point the finger of blame anywhere but at his own door.
SM: I haven’t read Rio’s book but I do feel Moyes was hung out to dry. He came to the club and the manner in which they went about naming transfer targets (each one then turning Utd down) was bad business. When have Utd in the past blabbed about who they want to sign. At Everton Moyes had the run of the club, Utd is a very different beast. I feel it was a very similar appointment to AVB at Chelsea, too many senior players rejecting change.
8) Would you take Marouane Fellaini back and what did you make of his move to United?
ND:No thanks! I don’t really see how he would fit into our style thesedays, Martinez would never play him further forward and we have bags of defensive midfielders in the ranks, plus a young guy called Ledson who is probably only a year away from the first team. It was a weird buy for United, he has qualities at both ends of the pitch, in particular at winning second balls and in the air but he was never really brilliant at either end nor does he possess the temperament or passing ability to be a top midfielder. The Wigan game in the cup when he basically gave up made up mine and a lot of Evertonian’s minds about him.
SM: His move was a joke (from the Utd side). Moyes knew his buy out clause and when it expired. If you wanted him, then he should have moved for him in that window. Fortunately for Everton, he was about the 5th choice midfielder you wanted that summer so we had the leverage, especially with the window closing. Big Marouane is an incredibly difficult player to play against as he is all elbows and knees, plus he can take the ball down on his chest from great heights, however he is must efficient when he is just behind the front man, no longer a defensive midfielder. He wouldn’t fit into the Martinez mould now and in my opinion, never go back (Except for big Dunc).
9) What is your favourite Manchester United vs. Everton memory?
ND:Probably the cup final in 95 given that its the only time I’ve ever seen us win anything! The Duncan Ferguson inspired 1-0 wins in 95 & 05 hold great memories for many blues, whilst the 4-4 and the 3-3 in recent years were both great games high on attacking flair and low on defensive quality.
SM: Has to be 1995, Paul Rideout’s winner against a Utd side WITH Keane, Ince and Sharpe. Big Nev Southall said he would not stay for a party if Everton won or lost and true to his word, he shot off right after the game. 2nd Favourite is when Richard Gough and Dave Watson both aged 37 kept Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole very quiet in the opening fixture in 1999.
10) What is your all time Everton Xi?
ND:You’ve put me on the spot here! Ok here goes; Southall, Wilson, Baines, Labone, Ratcliffe, Ball, Reid, Steven, Sheedy, Hickson, Dean
SM: Neville Southall, Phil Jagielka,Andy Hinchcliffe, Dave Watson, Joleon Lescott, Thomas Gravesen, Andrei Kanchelskis, Tim Cahill, Duncan Ferguson, Tony Cottee, Mikel Arteta