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Everton at Manchester United: The Opposition View

We spoke to United fan and writer Colin Damms prior to Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford

Manchester United v Everton FC - Premier League
United won this fixture 2-1 last season
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Duncan Ferguson takes temporary charge of Everton once more on Sunday as the Blues take on Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s rejuvenated Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Ferguson, Blues caretaker boss since Marco Silva’s sacking on December 5, will be hoping for a similar performance and result to his first and only game in charge so far, Saturday’s 3-1 win over Chelsea.

But history is firmly against Everton, who have just one victory at Old Trafford in 27 years, and have not won away at any of the ‘big six’ since that late triumph at United in December 2013.

United have a stuttering season but have recently picked up form with two superb wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, which leaves them sixth in the table.

Ahead of Sunday’s game, we spoke to Colin Damms, writer for SB Nation’s United site, The Busby Babe:

RBM: Firstly, it is almost exactly a year since Ole Gunnar Solskjær replaced José Mourinho as United boss. How would you assess his first 12 months?

Colin: It’s definitely been bumpy at times, but overall I still feel that what Ole has tried to do is a lot more positive than how things were going by the end of things under José. Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay in particular are much more consistent.

Hopeful for the future, but a lot of work left to do.

Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League
Solskjær’s United beat Man City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday
Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

RBM: Do you think Solskjær has also bought himself more time through the amount of opportunities he’s given to youngsters (i.e. Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Mason Greenwood, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe, Scott McTominay, Marcus Rashford, etc)?

Colin: I think what’s bought him time is the success those players have had.

Anyone who came in would’ve had to rely on youth with the exodus of players from last season and the stingy transfer policy of the Glazers and Ed Woodward, but Solskjær has found a way to get the best out of most academy graduates.

RBM: How much of an improvement do you think summer signings Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire have made to United’s defence (the fifth-best in the league)?

Colin: From last season it’s been an incredible turnaround, and I think it was crucial for locking down David de Gea with another contract as well.

Right-back and centre-back have been positions of need for years, and it may have cost a bit of cash, but Maguire and especially Wan-Bissaka have been worth it so far.

Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League - Old Trafford
Maguire (centre) and Wan-Bissaka (right) both moved to Old Trafford for huge fees in the summer
Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

RBM: What do you think constitutes a successful season for both United and Solskjær?

Colin: My expectations haven’t changed from last season really: qualify for the Champions League and compete for a cup.

Obviously there are some major problems with squad depth, but Ole’s been resourceful with younger players. It finally seems like they’re capable of making up ground, but the problem that has plagued United’s league form is usually inconsistency.

RBM: Marcus Rashford has already equalled his goal tally for the last two seasons of 13 this term. What is Solskjær getting out of him that Mourinho couldn’t?

Colin: I think Mourinho never really knew how he wanted to use Rashford, and the result was usually inconsistent playing time, and thus inconsistent form.

Ole made it clear early on that Rashford was going to be a crucial part of his attacking lineup, and that confidence as well as the increase in chances created has led to more goals. He’s gotten smarter about positioning himself for goals, and the counter-attacking play suits his style.

I made the bold prediction for TBB in pre-season that Rashford would finally reach the 20-goal mark this season, and he’s well on track; he just needs to avoid the dry spells he’s previously had after a hot streak.

Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League
Rashford is in superb form for United
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

RBM: United seem to struggle against teams who are happier to soak up their pressure and wait for the right moment to counter. Would this approach give Everton the best chance of a result against them?

Colin: I think it could, especially with the potential boost Duncan Ferguson seems to have brought. United also have a habit of struggling against teams they’re supposed to beat handily.

Despite their start to the season, Everton have a talented squad, and in particular they’ve got some creative attacking talent. United have struggled with counter-attacks and set pieces this season, so I’m actually a bit nervous about this one.

RBM: How do you expect United to set up on Sunday?

Colin: It’s tough to say who exactly will start in midfield, but I expect to see the usual 4-2-3-1 that Ole’s tried out this season.

It’s likely to be Jesse Lingard at number ten again in front of McTominay and Fred, a front three of Rashford, Anthony Martial, James, and back line of Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelöf, Maguire, and either Luke Shaw or Ashley Young.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Martial, Rashford and James will be ones to watch for United
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

RBM: Who do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

Colin: Given that United will probably have the most possession I’ll go out on a limb and say Fred. We’ll need a creative midfielder to step up, and with Paul Pogba out, Fred is probably the best bet. He’s shown a lot of improvement recently,

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s game?

Colin: The last time I think I picked a 2-1 win and we lost 4-0, but I think I’ll say 2-1 again. Sloppy set-piece giveaway, but goals from Rashford and Martial to seal three points.

Our thanks to Colin for his time.