Tomorrow evening Roberto Martinez’s Everton side visit Old Trafford for the first time since David Moyes’ and Marouane Fellaini’s departures from the Toffees during the summer.
Even though only two points separate the two teams, there have been two completely different outlooks to the starts the two sides have made. Moyes’ side currently lie in eighth but it has been Martinez who has made the seemingly unnoticed successful start with the ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ over Southampton. However it is hasn’t gone unnoticed by Evertonians as the Blues are placed fifth and are as little as two goals off being in fourth. It also hasn’t gone unnoticed by Moyes who has been quoted as saying in the build-up that Martinez has started off well and ‘kept it going’ managing the team that ‘doesn’t need to be managed’.
In the most recent past, this fixture has been centred upon the theme of players playing against their former clubs (one particular player comes to mind) although with Moyes’ transfer the encounter is more focused on non-playing staff. With the departure of Moyes, Steve Round, Chris Woods, Jimmy Lumsden and Phil Neville it would be easy to forget that Marouane Fellaini too will be facing their previous club for the first time.
Having only lost one game all season combined with the loss of the ‘Fergie factor’; the intimidation the Scot possessed over any opposition, means that this is Everton’s best chance to claim victory at Old Trafford. However the Blues have not won at Old Trafford since their first Premier League fixture at the ground in 1992 with a 3-0 win.
With Michael Carrick remaining on the treatment table with an achilles injury and Phil Jones serving a one-match ban for receiving five yellow cards, Fellaini looks a shoo-in to start against his former teammates. Further up the field and in recovery from groin and toe problems, Robin van Persie has a chance of returning for the Red Devils.
For the away team, Roberto Martinez has stated that there are no fresh injury problems ahead of the encounter. Bryan Oviedo is expected to carry on in place of the injured Leighton Baines after a more than decent performance deputising for the England fullback against Stoke. However the 28 year-old is making better progress in recovery than first expected as he was initially ruled out until the New Year. The only other two absentees for Everton will be longstanding ones in Darron Gibson and Arouna Kone. With no new injury concerns the only starting line-up queries are whether Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas return to the side after being replaced by Leon Osman and Gerard Deulofeu. In the previous management it could have been predicted what changes would have been made in this situation and in this fixture however Martinez is more difficult to figure out with his more attacking philosophy.
Goalkeepers: Amos, De Gea and Lindegaard.
Defenders: Evans, Evra, Fabio, Ferdinand, Rafael, Smalling and Vidic.
Midfielders: Anderson, Cleverley, Fellaini, Giggs, Januzaj, Kagawa, Nani, Valencia, Young and Zaha.
Strikers: Hernandez, Rooney and Van Persie.
Goalkeepers: Howard and Robles.
Defenders: Coleman, Distin, Heitinga, Jagielka, Oviedo and Stones.
Midfielders: Barkley, Barry, Deulofeu, McCarthy, Mirallas, Naismith, Osman and Pienaar.
Strikers: Jelavic and Lukaku.
Man. United have scored 84 goals against the Toffees in the Premier League; more than they have against any other side still in the league.
This fixture has been played out 21 times in the Premier League at Old Trafford and since Everton won the first in August 1992, the Blues have only drawn four, with the remaining 16 going the way of the hosts.
At this stage of the season, 22 is the lowest points tally United have had in nine seasons, that season they finished third.
In the last 74 league games at Old Trafford Chelsea are the only team to prevent United from scoring.
After Gordon Strachan, Teddy Sheringham and Kevin Phillps, Ryan Giggs will become only the fourth outfield player over the age of 40 to play in the Premier League with an appearance on Wednesday night.
In 10 EPL starts against the Blues RvP has scored six and assisted five more to boot.
The betting man will put money on Wayne Rooney scoring against his boyhood club, being one goal short of 150 in the Premier League for the Red Devils and with eight goals and five assists he has been directly involved in 59% of United’s league goals this season. With 175 goals for Arsenal, Theirry Henry is the only player to score more goals for one club in the Premier League.
In their last 14 away league games, Everton have won just two, drawing seven and losing five.
Roberto Martinez’s side have restricted the shots on target against them away from home to the fewest of any other club in the Premier League this season with 16.
Only three players have scored hat-tricks against United in the EPL, Romelu Lukaku is one of them. The other two are Dirk Kuyt and David Bentley.
Under Moyes, Everton never won away to United, or Arsenal, Chelsea or even Liverpool for that matter.
THE FINAL WORD
Based on the two teams’ current form it is Everton’s best chance winning at Old Trafford for a long time. Lukaku has been in fine form since his arrival on loan from Chelsea and is an integral part of this good feeling and the last time he started against United he scored a hat-trick in Alex Ferguson’s last game in management in the final game of last season. David Moyes spent over a decade at the Toffees and in his first game against them will be looking for the win which is why Martinez’s side must not let their good form blind them of the task at hand.