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Can Everton end big-six hoodoo at Old Trafford?

The Toffees have improved in recent weeks, but face a real test against Jose Mourinho’s side despite their recent struggles

Everton FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

All is rosy in the Goodison right now after three successive victories in league lifted Everton into the top half of the table.

It is the first time in 18 months that the Blues have won three successive games and has gone a long way to restore the feel-good factor that had been sadly absent for much of this year.

The Southampton game remains a nagging disappointment, but the response against Leicester and Crystal Palace suggests Marco Silva’s ideas are being taken on board by the team.

It was certainly refreshing to see Silva throw on three attacking substitutes against Palace last weekend with the match deadlocked at 0-0. It always looks good when a manager’s changes come off so Silva has extra reason to be smug when all three of his changes played a part in the victory.

It highlighted the options Silva now has at his disposal from the bench. For the first time in a long while Everton have a genuine squad, meaning match-changing players can be brought on to change the game.

There was plenty to be pleased about from the Palace win, not least the performance of Andre Gomes.

Everton FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

We’ve have been crying out for a player of Gomes’ attributes for a long time and despite his long lay-off he slotted into the team perfectly. The 25-year-old feels like the missing piece of the jigsaw, connecting our improving defence with our dynamic attack.

What’s also been refreshing to see is the level of community engagement amongst the new signings. Gomes, Richarlison, Bernard, Yerry Mina and Lucas Digne have all played an active part in community projects, engaging with fans and gaining a greater understanding of what the club means to the supporters and the city.

It paints a picture of a squad much more relaxed in itself compared to just a few months ago. Things slowly seem to be clicking, though greater tests lie ahead....

The opposition

All is not well at Old Trafford right now. Jose Mourinho seems a shadow of his former domineering self and the team is struggling in kind.

The Portuguese’s behaviour has become increasingly erratic as he looks to arrest a slide in form and stave off the pressure that seems to be creeping up all around him.

Last weekend’s touchline scuffle at Stamford Bridge again raised accusations that the former Chelsea boss seeks out controversy to try and distract the media’s attention from his team’s failings on the pitch. I’d say there is definitely something in that theory, but even someone as controversial as Jose Mourinho is struggling to cover up Utd’s failings this campaign.

The Red Devils are 10th in the Premier League, out of the EFL Cup and suffered a limp defeat to Juventus in the Champions League against Juventus on Wednesday.

A run of just one win in seven games is unacceptable for a club of United’s stature, but it seems the club a reluctant to sack yet another manager - their third since Sir Alex Ferguson retired three years ago (David Moyes’ original six-year contract still has seven months to run!).

Despite the lack of decisive action there remains tension between manager and boardroom, with Mourinho highly critical of the club for not sanctioning a deal for a central defender over the summer.

Mourinho’s fears appear to have been realised as Utd’s back line looks unusually shaky and is certainly a weakness to be exploited on Sunday.

Despite their struggles they remain a threat and Everton’s woeful record at Old Trafford needs to be highlighted. The Toffees have won just twice away at Man Utd in the history of the Premier League, meaning a result on Sunday would carry much significance than just three points.

Team news

Marco Silva has confirmed he has no fresh injury concerns ahead of Sunday’s game. Given the impact of substitutes Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ademola Lookman and Cenk Tosun against Crystal Palace means he has a selection headache.

Yerry Mina is also waiting to make his debut but again is likely to be a substitute as he builds up his match fitness.

Predicted starting XI

Final word

Sunday represents a key yard stick by which to measure the progress made by Silva’s Everton. After a few shaky early results, the side seem to be settling under the Portuguese’s stewardship but this will be a real test.

I’d say there will never be a better time to face Man Utd and I am confident at least that the team will have a go and be positive.

If the team can get a result it will force rivals to sit up and take notice and generate the kind of momentum that can sustain the side through a tricky run of fixtures heading deeper into autumn.