Everton have not won an away match against the “top six” (Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool) since December 4, 2013. For those keeping score at home, that is nearly five years and 28 opportunities gone by since the Blues were able to take all three points from Sky Sports’ favorite clubs. It has been, in a word, exhausting.
Sunday at Old Trafford represents one of Everton’s best chances in several years to right these many wrongs. Marco Silva’s men are in good form, and Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United are a hot mess. It will require the right lineup, though.
Tactics and Formation
It’s a little tough to predict what Marco Silva will see from Jose Mourinho and his team on Sunday.
Part of that is the pure volatility of third-year Mourinho. He’s frozen out his best attacking players, attacked Paul Pogba, benched Eric Bailly out of spite, played Scott McTominay at center-back despite the fact that he is Scott McTominay. That United is coming off a late slip-up against Chelsea and a Champions League loss to Juventus, the latter at Old Trafford, simply enhances the possibility for nonsensical Mourinho shenanigans.
That tough match against Juventus on Tuesday might mean rest for some of the important players who have already played this week. Mourinho can ill-afford to run his players into the ground with a trips to surprisingly good Bournemouth, Juventus, and Manchester City all on the docket before the November international break.
That’s all a long way of saying that Silva can’t really be sure what his team will face at Old Trafford — so we expect him to simply go with the lineup he probably thinks is his best at this point.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Lucas Digne - 10/10
Kurt Zouma - 9/10
Michael Keane - 9/10
Even with Yerry Mina having another week of training under his belt, it’s hard to see Silva breaking up Keane and Zouma at this point. The pair have played every minute of Everton’s last four matches (including the League Cup), and the Toffees have only conceded twice in that span.
When you consider that one of those goals came on a counterattack that likely should have been cut out by Jonjoe Kenny, that’s a pretty impressive run.
Seamus Coleman - 10/10
Idrissa Gueye - 10/10
Andre Gomes - 9/10
Silva definitely caught us off-guard by starting the Portuguese midfielder against Crystal Palace last week. But, Gomes looked nothing like a player who hadn’t played a competitive match in six months, rewarding the manager’s trust with a solid but unspectacular performance.
Given United’s pace up top, he seems the obvious choice to play alongside Gana above Tom Davies (prone to giving the ball away, leading to quick counters) and Morgan Schneiderlin (too slow to keep up).
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 10/10
Theo Walcott - 8/10
We weren’t anywhere near as critical of Theo Walcott as some in other channels were, but there’s no doubt that following strong performances from Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Cenk Tosun, and Ademola Lookman last week, things are getting more and more crowded among the attackers.
We don’t think Richarlison starts at striker, so he’ll surely be on the left wing. That leaves one wing spot for Walcott, Lookman, and Bernard to fight over — we suspect Walcott remains top choice for now, but also acknowledge Silva could surprise us here.
Richarlison - 10/10
Richarlison remains dangerous and key to the Everton attack, but he just didn’t fit at striker last week, and we don’t anticipate that Silva tries him again there this week. Back to the left wing for Richarlison, who will look forward to the opportunity to terrorize Ashley Young or Antonio Valencia.
Cenk Tosun - 5/10
Our opinions on this one are split. Chris thinks DCL gets the nod up top, Adam suspects it will be Tosun. Both of us, though, admit it’s basically a toss-up after both players did well against Crystal Palace last weekend.
Yerry Mina - If things go sideways for Everton at Old Trafford, expect Mina to get a chance at home against Brighton next week, before the schedule really starts to pick up.
Tom Davies - Gomes’ return is a bit of tough luck for Davies, who was maybe in the best form of his Everton career. But, his passing remains hugely suspect, and until he can fix that, he’s going to primarily be confined to the bench.
Ademola Lookman - Lookman seems to have done all the right things to get back in Silva’s good graces. The manager spoke positively of him this week and gave him a chance to make a difference against Crystal Palace — and Lookman rewarded that faith. It’s been a crazy ride for Lookman, as Chris chronicled this week, but he looks to finally be settled. If the Toffees need another late goal, expect him to get another chance on Sunday.
Bernard - Tough luck for the Brazilian winger, who was underwhelming last week, in no small part due to tactical forces out of his control. He certainly continues to have a role to play for Everton, but it’ll be from the bench this week.
Everton, on current evidence, are good enough to win this game. There could perhaps be no truer indication that the times are indeed changing than an iconic victory such as this one. Old habits die hard, though.