Everton at Manchester United: Q&A with The Busby Babe

Pienaar's late, late equalizer in a 4-4 barnstormer - Alex Livesey

We talked to SB Nation's United blog 'The Busby Babe' ahead of the midweek clash at Old Trafford.

Thanks to Callum, the editor over at The Busby Babe for his answers ahead of Wednesday's Everton versus Manchester United clash.

RBM - So how have the first few months been without the stabilizing presence of Fergie holding the reins at United?

TBB - Pretty poor. It's not been a complete catastrophe, just continually building up results of dropping points in games we shouldn't and not really making up for it. The title looks a distant dream and even fourth looks like it might be a struggle. I think that people are making two mistakes in judging that: Firstly, they don't realise how big a fall it is, and secondly, they don't realise that it was inevitable without investment in the squad.

RBM - How about the on-field product? The Red Devils are on a good streak now after a rocky beginning - are the fans happy with the quality of play?

TBB - We're not really on that great a streak. Figuring out that Phil Jones is our best midfielder has helped, but we've not been playing scintillating stuff. Last year we had about four players in form, and two of them were Rafael and Robin van Persie, who have been injured a lot so far. That's a mitigating factor, but it's going to be hard to play anything exciting with the players we have.

RBM - David Moyes seems to be taking great pains to destroy the goodwill from Goodison with his inflammatory comments. A twinge of jealousy perhaps?

TBB - Perhaps. But this is a weird season. The picture is taking longer than usual to emerge, and people are bizarrely assuming form is going to be permanent. If Everton can withstand this for much longer I'll be surprised - I don't think the squad is very good at all and I'd be surprised if Moyes did either.

RBM - The Scot has often received criticism for being a poor nurturer of youth with the way he handled Wayne Rooney and Ross Barkley. What is he doing differently with Adnan Januzaj?

TBB - Well, playing him for a start, but he's also left him out of a few games that he should have had a role in. Arsenal was a notable example of that, and at Spurs we saw Shinji Kagawa in the hole, where he was awful. If we're going to try playing one striker, there's only one player who's done enough to show that he can compete in that number 10 role, and that's Januzaj. But so far, we haven't seen it.

I had reservations about Moyes' ability to develop youngsters when he joined, but I've seen nothing so far to make me think that he's going to have a negative effect in that respect. Although I don't think he can take too much credit for Januzaj, who is a talent so ridiculous it's almost impossible to ruin him.

RBM - What are the strengths of this United side? Who apart from the usual suspects plays a bigger role than they are credited for?

TBB - Patrice Evra. Since he joined he's been one of our most important players, and is hugely important at progressing the play and creating attacks with his sheer athleticism. We'll truly miss him when he's gone, and you won't find many all-round greater guys either. The idea of seeing Baines in his spot does not fill me with joy, so we may have some grounds for agreement there...

RBM - The team is littered with world-class players, but somehow the sum of the whole is not as coherent as the individual parts - where are the weaknesses?

TBB - Midfield is the obvious answer, but I'd take exception to the fact we're 'littered' with world-class players. We're a very odd mix of the truly great and the awful - Nemanja Vidic, Evra, van Persie, Rafael and David de Gea in the former category, and players like Tom Cleverley, Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick in the latter.

It's not just their abilities but also their mentality - we also have a lot of big-game players who always step up at the club, like Rafael, Danny Welbeck, De Gea, and we have players who always, *always* go missing against better opposition like Cleverley and Carrick. It's a mess, but unfortunately it doesn't look like either the board or the manager have the conviction to really make the sweeping changes necessary.

RBM - The January transfer window is almost upon us. Will United be big players during the period? Who do they have their eyes on?

TBB - They'll certainly try, and I think we'll see a couple of signings. I think we have to, because unless we make changes in some respect, I don't think we'll get fourth. Ander Herrera, Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus, Andres Iniesta and Alex Sandro have been mentioned. I think any two of those will be excellent, although the first three are the most likely.

There's also Ryan Gauld, who you lot were once linked to, who I'd be delighted to sign for sentimental reasons, being a Scot.

RBM - Finally, a score prediction for Wednesday? Who do you think shines for either side?

TBB - I think this will actually be a welcome return to the days of Everton lying down at Old Trafford and we'll get a solid 3-0 win, providing Moyes gets the team right. Everton have been very good this season, but I don't think they'll have the quality to impress against a big side. You've beaten Chelsea of course, but they've been very inconsistent - United have basically been not quite good enough in all their games, and I think if we can get control then we can give you a solid pumping.

There are a lot of ifs there, however. I don't think the effect of Moyes playing his former club will be too big, but there's the possibility it could give it a bit of a derby feel where everything goes out of the window and you get a completely random result. I have to say I wouldn't be remotely surprised were it to be 3-0 to you either, but yeah, I'm gonna go with 3-0 United.

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