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Everton at Manchester United: Match Preview

Blues travel to league-leaders United at the worst possible time

Everton v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

So, where do we go from here?

No team can sink into a crisis quite as quickly as Everton. After 18 months of what felt like genuine progress – both on and off the pitch – the team seems to have lurched two steps back to cancel out that giant leap forward.

Like Chelsea and Tottenham before it, the Atalanta result was disastrous not just for the result but the manner of the performance.

The team was slow and ponderous, with no real structure or tactical plan. Throw in some terrible defending and it’s a toxic recipe that will only result in humiliation.

It brought back frightening memories of hammerings gone by - Dinamo Bucharest ’05, Wigan ’13 and Dynamo Kiev ’14 spring to mind.

This was not what was supposed to happen when we splurged £150m on new talent in the summer.

We all knew the team would miss Romelu Lukaku’s goals, so to not sign a direct replacement is irresponsible.

But it seems Rom’s presence papered over other cracks in the team that also weren’t addressed in the summer.

As a result we have an imbalanced squad, overloaded with no.10s, short of creativity and completely lacking in pace and width.

Ronald Koeman understandably has to take considerable blame for recent results, but I still feel talk of the sack is premature.

It’s still ludicrously early in the season and there can be some mitigation found in the tough fixture list and the challenge of integrating so many players into the side.

Even the most positive of Blues are resigned to things getting worse before they get better. But after this Sunday’s trip to Manchester the team have four home games in a row.

If things don’t improve after that, then serious questions will have to be asked.

The opposition

There’s little more to say about Manchester United that hasn’t already been said.

The most successful club in English football may have gone four years without a league title, but the trophies have not dried up.

Last season’s Europa League triumph made up for a disappointing sixth place finish and ensured a return to the Champions League after a three-year absence.

Further heavy recruitment, including a certain Belgian striker, has turned United into a pretty formidable looking unit.

Their start has been near perfect, three wins out of four in the league and a comfortable 3-0 victory over Basel in the Champions League.

Jose Mourinho is working his magic yet again.

Most of the pre-match hype involves Wayne Rooney and Romelu Lukaku taking on their former sides.

I’m sure it will be an emotional day for Rooney as he returns to Old Trafford for the first time. For Lukaku I’m not so sure. Everton were always a stepping stone for the striker and was very much a marriage of convenience.

It will be interesting to see if he does the now traditional refuse-to-celebrate-when-scoring-against-his-old-club routine.

Because he will score, there is nothing more certain. Don’t get your hopes up that it will end any other way.

There is never a good time to go to Old Trafford but it appears Everton are preparing to take on a United side in full flow, perhaps playing better than at any time since Sir Alex Ferguson left.

Meanwhile Everton are in a state of flux, with a team bereft of confidence and a manager unsure of his best team, formation or tactics.

This one could get messy.

Team news

Koeman has reported no fresh injury concerns from Thursday night but it is likely there will be changes to the starting XI.

Jordan Pickford will be recalled in goal, while the likes of Ademola Lookman, Sandro Ramirez and Davy Klaassen are options to be called upon.

James McCarthy, Ross Barkley, Yannick Bolasie, Seamus Coleman and Ramiro Funes Mori remain sidelined.

Manchester United will be without Paul Pogba with the midfielder sidelined for around six weeks with a hamstring injury.

Predicted starting XI

Pickford, Martina, Keane, Williams, Baines, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Rooney, Sigurdsson, Klaassen, Ramirez.

Final word

Expectations are pretty much on the floor going into this one. Most Toffees fans are resigned to defeat and just hope it doesn’t turn into a humiliation.

But with four home games to follow it is vital the players at least give us something to build on. Even a narrow defeat would be progress given the past three matches.

A draw, or even the most unlikeliest of wins, and this latest crisis may just have been averted.