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Everton at Manchester United: Match Preview | Can Ferguson haunt the Red Devils again?

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The caretaker boss had a fine record against United as a player and will now look to do the same as a manager

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

Just when you think you are out, they go and drag you right back in.

Duncan Ferguson rolled back the years to inspire Everton to that barnstorming victory over Chelsea last weekend.

For those fans of a certain vintage, it was the kind of performance we witnessed during the 1990s when Ferguson was in his pomp. Joe Royle’s Dogs of War was revived. Blood, thunder and guts dragged the Toffees to victory. We had our Everton back.

Everton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

The sight of Dunc charging down the touchline brought those memories flooding back and reminded me why he is a hero to so many Blues. He was just what Everton needed at their time of need. The occasion was given even more poignancy when it emerged he was wearing Howard Kendall’s old watch for good luck.

It was a vital win for many reasons, not just because it lifted the team out of the relegation zone.

It also gave the board vital breathing space as they continued the hunt for a new manager. One of the reasons we ended up with Sam Allardyce two years ago was the fact the team were losing games, often heavily, under David Unsworth, increasing the sense of panic.

The club are right to give Ferguson the Man Utd game (he’s provided some memorable moments against them in the past), and probably the Leicester cup match, to allow them the time to make the right appointment.

But what is the right appointment?

Given the two frontrunners seem to be Carlo Ancelotti and David Moyes, I’m not sure the board know the answer to that question.

If Ferguson continues to pick up positive results then the option of putting him in charge until the end of the season becomes more realistic.

Everton’s Duncan Ferguson (10) scores to Photo credit should read PAUL BARKER/AFP via Getty Images

That would certainly mean a wider field of candidates, many of whom are reluctant to leave their present clubs mid-season.

It would also mean we have the chance to enjoy the sight of Big Dunc’s celebrations for another few months.

I think we all would be happy with that.

The opposition

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in Duncan Ferguson’s position when he took charge of the Red Devils as caretaker boss 12 months ago.

He made an instant impact with his young side, freed from the shackles of the Mourinho era, embarking on a run of 10 wins and a draw. Then came that dramatic 3-1 Champions League victory at PSG. The Norwegian seemingly could do no wrong.

However, the were signs of a slowdown even before his permanent appointment in March, with the side losing eight of their final 12 games of the season.

Everton FC v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

One of those defeats was a 4-0 thrashing by Everton at Goodison in April. A fine performance by the Toffees, but one of the worst displays by a visiting United team in years.

There were understandable questions over whether the board had jumped the gun in appointing Solskjaer permanent. An inconsistent start to this season only increased the pressure, though he does have some mitigating factors.

Like Everton, the club have turned over several managers in recent seasons, leaving an unbalanced squad.

Solskjaer responded by selling established stars such as Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez and placing an emphasis on youth. But developing young players takes time and inconsistent results are expected. This is without doubt the weakest United squad I’ve seen in years, especially when compared with Man City and Liverpool.

Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

But there are signs in recent weeks that Solskjaer is starting to get a tune out of them, Marcus Rashford in particular.

The England forward has scored 13 goals in his last 14 matches for club and country, with United going into this game on the back of three straight wins, including last week’s impressive victory at the Etihad.

Then there is Everton appalling record at Old Trafford which has seen them win just one of their last 26 Premier League visits.

Previous meeting

Everton 4-0 Man Utd (Match report)

Everton FC v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Probably the high point of last season, Everton stormed to victory on a warm, sunny Easter Sunday at Goodison Park thanks to goals from Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lucas Digne and Theo Walcott.

Recent form

Everton

Chelsea (H) Won 3-1

Liverpool (A) Lost 5-2

Leicester City (A) Lost 2-1

Norwich City (H) Lost 2-0

Southampton (A) Won 2-1

Man Utd

AZ (H - Europa League) Won 4-0

Man City (A) Won 2-1

Tottenham (H) Won 2-1

Aston Villa (H) Drew 2-2

Astana (A - Europa League) Lost 2-1

Team news

Everton’s injury list has increased with Theo Walcott out for three weeks and Morgan Schneiderlin out for two with calf injuries.

Lucas Digne was forced off last weekend but has returned to training and could be available. Fabian Delph, Yerry Mina and Seamus Coleman also may be involved.

What they said

Everton caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson: “It’s been great. The three points were so important for us and got us out of the relegation zone.

“A bit chaotic, but exciting and emotional. Obviously it was my first time on the touchline in the Premier League; it was a fantastic day and, of course, I got caught up in it as well. But i think the players needed that encouragement.

“Everybody’s delighted; that’s what happens when you get wins - everybody’s happier. The boys seem good, have trained well, and are motivated to go again.”

“I’m not going to change. I’m just going to be myself. That’s it.”

Manchester United v AZ Alkmaar: Group L - UEFA Europa League Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Man Utd manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “We lost quite clearly against Everton last year. We’ve spoken enough about what happened that day and how we looked like a team. It was more or less a shambles.

”But I’ve said too many times this year as well, we’re not that group anymore. This is a different group, a group that’s ready for the fight and is ready for the football.

”Mentality sometimes is strange to explain. The mood in the camp is different, definitely.”

Final word

Last week’s win has eased the pressure, but a sobering defeat here will put the club on the edge of a crisis again. It is the start of a huge week, with the cup game against Leicester looming. All the fans ask is another 90 minutes of passion, drive and determination, even if that ultimately isn’t enough to secure all three points.