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Everton vs Manchester United: The Opposition View

We spoke to United fan and writer Colin Damms prior to Sunday’s clash at Goodison Park

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Both fixtures between Everton and Man Utd ended 1-1 last season
Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Everton will look to end their three-game winless run in the Premier League when they host Manchester United on Saturday.

The Blues have not won since October 3, and were knocked off top spot last weekend after a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle.

United have had a poor start under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, sitting in 15th with just two wins - both away from home - from their six matches.

Solskjaer, who is coming under increased pressure at Old Trafford, also saw his side suffer an embarrassing away defeat to Istanbul Başakşehir in the Champions League on Wednesday.

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

RBM: Firstly, United have thrashed RB Leipzig and won at PSG in the Champions League, yet also lost to Istanbul on Wednesday and are 15th in the Premier League. Is it hard to make sense of them this season?

Colin: It’s been difficult to make sense of this team for some time now, but certainly now it’s hard to predict what we’ll see. We should have beaten Chelsea, and did well to stop Arsenal, but Ole’s changes stunted the team’s ability to attack.

I think we saw something similar for most of the game against Leipzig, but bringing on Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford in the second half brought out the best in our offensive game. Problem is, now Everton feels like a must-win, and I’m not sure how that pressure will affect Ole and the squad.

Istanbul Basaksehir v Manchester United: Group H - UEFA Champions League
United suffered an embarrassing defeat in Istanbul on Wednesday
Photo by Ahmad Mora/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

RBM: Speculation over Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s future seems to be resurfacing after United’s start to the campaign. How much time would you give him to turn things around?

Colin: I said on our podcast that if we didn’t have at least 15 points by the end of November, I’d be in serious panic mode. It’s not looking likely that we will, but of course, context will be important.

Still, if this team, with the healthy talent it has, isn’t in better shape come the winter schedule there will be serious pressure from fans and the media to bring in Mauricio Pochettino. There already is, really, but the wins over PSG and Leipzig bought Ole some valuable time that he wouldn’t have had he lost.

RBM: There seems to be more debate than usual lately about Paul Pogba’s place in United’s side. What would you do with the midfielder?

Colin: I think that the problems with Pogba are the same with the rest of the squad, but he’s a player that comes with extra focus, some of which he invites himself.

He earned the right to start again after good performances off the bench, but was atrocious against Arsenal. Everyone else was too, but his giveaways in possession and the reckless tackle to concede the penalty make him stick out.

I’d probably start him against Everton, but maybe in a more advanced role with Fred and Scott McTominay behind. Bruno, I’d either play on the right in a role similar to what Juan Mata plays, or bring him off the bench in the second half.

Manchester United v Arsenal - Premier League
Pogba conceded the penalty which led to Arsenal’s winner last weekend
Photo by Visionhaus

RBM: United’s only two league wins have both come on the road, and they also beat PSG away in the Champions League. Why do you think they seem better-suited to playing away?

Colin: This is a very strange time for football, and I think the absence of fans certainly makes a difference. Still, it’s a very odd trend from late last season that has continued into the current one.

I think the PSG game came with a sense of occasion to it, returning the the Champions League, and the Brighton game was a response to the ugly opener. I think each loss has been very circumstantial, but it is a noticeable trend now. I just don’t have a good answer for it.

RBM: Dean Henderson got the nod over David De Gea in goal for Wednesday’s trip to Istanbul. Who would be your first choice for United currently?

Colin: I’m sticking with De Gea for the time being. Despite the goals conceded this season, they’ve not really been the fault of the goalkeepers. Glaring defensive errors have cost De Gea while he’s actually been playing very well.

Henderson seems to be pushing him, but he’s too good to keep on the bench too often. I like the balance that Ole’s set so far, and I expect Henderson to win the job in the long run, but for now I’m keeping De Gea.

Istanbul Basaksehir v Manchester United: Group H - UEFA Champions League
Henderson made his Champions League debut for United on Wednesday
Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

RBM: After a gruelling trip to Turkey for Wednesday’s game, United have a quick turnaround which this Saturday lunchtime kick-off, whereas Everton haven’t played since last Sunday. How much of a disadvantage could this be to United?

Colin: I’m not sure. United have played a weekend and midweek game for three weeks running now, but the squad has rotated quite a bit between games as well. I don’t know that it’s been entirely for the sake of rest, as we’ve had some stinkers in that run, but Ole’s utilized his bench and rotation well.

I’m concerned about it, though, and especially as James Rodriguez will be back for Everton as well. He’s been brilliant, something which I did not expect, and we’ve been easy to carve open so far this season.

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

Colin: With the short-lived success of the diamond midfield I’d expect a return to the 4-2-3-1. They need to get the offence going, and Anthony Martial is available again to play up top with Rashford as the left-forward.

I think Pogba should play. The right-wing remains a problem for Mason Greenwood, so I’d like to see Ole try Mata or Bruno there. Defence will probably be the usual Shaw-Maguire-Lindelof-Wan-Bissaka, and De Gea in goal.

Manchester United v Everton FC - Premier League
Greenwood scored against Everton last season
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

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

Colin: Hopefully Bruno and Pogba. We need them to find form again. It will depend on how the game plays out, but if we can soak up some pressure and counter well I think they’ll find space.

Martial’s hold-up play has been missed, and Rashford still needs to develop at breaking down teams in possession (a weakness for the whole team, really).

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

Colin: I’m going to say 2-2. Both teams need a bounce-back result and will be going for it.

I think United will realize they need to start scoring again, but they’ll leave themselves open in doing so. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been great under Carlo Ancelotti, and I expect him to keep up his confident play.

Our thanks to Colin for his time.