Fresh from their poor FA Cup performance, Everton travel to Old Trafford on Sunday. Unfortunately, for Everton, Old Trafford is the last place you want to visit after a dismal semi-final showing. Everton won their first Premier League visit in August 1992 but it has not been a happy hunting ground since. Since then, Everton have drawn three and lost 15 of their last 18 visits.
For this meeting, there is an added incentive for Everton as their next away win is their 100th away in the Premier League. However, history suggests that the Toffees will have to wait a little while longer for that milestone. This is the 40th Premier League meeting between the two and Everton’s record makes for unpleasant reading; Played 39 (Won 4 Drawn 6 Lost 29).
Manchester United’s home form makes it even harder for Everton. The Red Devils have won their last seven at home, keeping six clean sheets in the process and not conceding at home since early February. Everton will need to break an Old Trafford goal drought dating back to 23rd December 2007. The visitors will also need to end a run that has seen them lose on each of their last five visits.
Both sides are showing good form on the goal-scoring front. Manchester United have scored two or more in 12 of their last 14 league games whilst Everton have scored two or more in their last five league games. However, given David Moyes’ cautious nature, – 0 wins in 47 away games v ‘Top 4’ teams – Everton are likely to set up with a defensive set-up. Everton boast a strong defence with only Manchester City and Sunday’s opponents conceded less this season (34) but the fans expect more than hard-fought containment.
United’s recent blip came in their defeat to Wigan with the Manchester side winning nine of their last 10 league games. Everton’s blip was their semi-final defeat to Liverpool. Aside from that, Everton are unbeaten in their last five Premier League games.
Everton head into Sunday’s match without Leighton Baines with the full back’s hamstring injury set to keep him out for around two – three weeks. Baines is Everton’s best attacking threat and his link-up with Steven Pienaar adds another dimension to the Everton team. Phil Neville is set to deputise as Everton fill the round hole with a square peg.
Despite being a left back, Baines ranks highest in several attacking categories. The table shows the categories that Baines ranks highest in and compares the results with the next best player. Baines’ crossing is a pivotal method of attack with his 237 crosses easily dwarfing Tony Hibbert’s tally of 90. Baines’ duty is to defend but he remains Everton’s most creative player creating 65 chances this season.
Leighton Baines’ absence is harder with the loss of Royston Drenthe as he leads the way with five assists. Sadly, two late arrivals for training seem to be signalling the end of Drenthe’s Everton career. Everton can do without liabilities but they will struggle to replace his flair and ability. Jack Rodwell is out for the season (hamstring) as Steven Pienaar returns from being cup-tied.
If Everton are to take anything from this match, they will need to stop United at their creative source, Paul Scholes. Scholes averages a 92.5% passing accuracy this season and recorded a 94% rate v Aston Villa on Sunday. Despite his advancing years, he is probably United’s best player now. Marouane Fellaini is Everton’s best and most frequent tackler and his job will be to try to dominate midfield proceedings.
The home side are without Nemanja Vidic (knee), Darren Fletcher (illness) and Anders Lindegaard (ankle). Anderson’s hamstring injury means he is now out for the rest of the season. Michael Owen (thigh) remains absent but the former Liverpool forward may return against Manchester City.
Everton’s containment policy ends in failure as a tired and stretched defence concedes the inevitable late goal. With a striker in red-hot form, Nikica Jelavic has five goals in his last five games, maybe it is time for Everton to go to Old Trafford and try to win. There is a chance that United will win regardless but Everton fans would rather their team went down swinging than surrendering.
Victor Anichebe is Everton’s top league scorer with 5 despite having only 11 shots
Wayne Rooney is without a goal in his last 6 against his former club
Since 2009/10, Ashley Young has won more Premier League penalties than any other player (9)
Darron Gibson is unbeaten in 24 league games
Manchester United have scored in a record 47 consecutive home Premier League games