The major talking point in the build up to Manchester United’s away match at Goodison Park will inevitably be the allegations surrounding Wayne Rooney. Everton fans already feel betrayed by the way Rooney left the Toffees, and the controversy surrounding the England striker will only fuel their fire for harassing him. Trips to Goodison Park have become a difficult fixture in recent years and the inevitable abuse from the home fan will only create a more heated battle.
Predicting the squad for the match is more complicated now that European fixtures are about to get underway. For instance, will Sir Alex use the in-form Paul Scholes for a tough Premier League away fixture or will he save him for midweek match against Rangers? The same question can be asked about Ryan Giggs. And then there is the impending return of Rio Ferdinand from injury. Will Sir Alex see him as fit enough for Everton, or will he give Rio more time by using Jonny Evans?
I think that with Evans’ recent struggles, that Sir Alex will select Rio if he is fit. Rio’s exclusion from the Reserves match on Thursday also seems to suggest that Sir Alex is saving the England captain for the weekend. I have no doubt that Edwin van der Sar will remain between to posts, while Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra are virtually undroppable at the moment. I would love to see Rafael get some playing time soon, but I can’t see Sir Alex using him in a tough away fixture. I think he’ll stick with John O’Shea for now to keep the team more defensive. In midfield, I predicting Scholes will be used alongside Fletcher as they’ve proven themselves a good pairing in early season fixtures. I think Giggs will be saved for Rangers, leaving Nani and Antonio Valencia on the wings. Surely, with Dimitar Berbatov’s recent performances he will continue as the player between the midfield and the striker.
This brings us to the final position. There has been some concern that Rooney may crumble under the pressure and that Sir Alex may spare him the harassment, but I believe the attacks from Everton fans will only serve as motivation. Rooney has already shown he can play despite all the problems in his private life having scored for England on Tuesday. I’d like to see Chicharito get some more chances and I think Kiko Macheda is knocking on the first team door, but I’m betting that any involvement they will have will come from the bench. If Rooney is fit, then Sir Alex will surely have him on the team sheet.
An interesting subplot to this match will be Sir Alex’s reported interest in Jack Rodwell*. The U-21 is already being reported as an injury doubt for this match, but should he play the gaffer will surely have his watchful eye focused on Rodwell’s performance. Many United fans will surely also be intrigued by the rumoured transfer target. Could be a convenient chance to get a glance at a potential future signing.
In the end, I’m backing Berbatov to continue his strong start to the season by bagging his third Premier League goal of the campaign. I also believe Rooney will get on the scoresheet using the abuse to fire home a goal. And I believe United will have three goals in them for the match, with Nani also getting himself a goal as well. The Portuguese winger has made huge improvements in the past year and scored a powerful goal against West Ham. He still has some work to do on his consistency, but I believe he has the ability to start finding the back of the net more regularly. I think that being at Goodison, Everton are likely to score as well, but I’m only predicting one goal for the home side.
Prediction: United 3, Everton 1
*Jack Rodwell has been ruled out for three months since the posting of this preview.
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