The Toffees’ thin squad has been ruthlessly exposed in defeats to Southampton and Newcastle. Shorn of Richarlison and James Rodriguez, their attack was significantly weakened, while Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman’s absence has blunted their influence at both ends of the pitch.
It means Everton have lost their position at the top of an increasingly congested Premier League table, though their current position of fourth still represents a fine start.
It does, however, put greater emphasis on Saturday’s clash with the Red Devils, who arrive on Merseyside in desperate need of a result themselves.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a man under pressure after three defeats from their opening six league games leaves them in the bottom half of the table. Another defeat on Saturday could see them drop as low as 17th.
Wins of RB Leipzig and PSG in the Champions League calmed some of the speculation surrounding the Norwegian’s position, but Wednesday’s defeat against Istanbul Basaksehir has put his United future in peril once more.
A report in the Manchester Evening News claims Mauricio Pochettino has been approached about potentially taking charge at Old Trafford.
The former Spurs boss is a long-term target having been on their shortlist before Jose Mourinho’s arrival in 2016 and Solskjaer appointment two years later.
Whether he finally ends up United boss remains to be seen, but another defeat on Saturday would certainly make a change at the top more likely.
Newcastle (A) Lost 2-1
Southampton (A) Lost 2-0
Liverpool (H) Drew 2-2
Brighton (H) Won 4-2
West Ham (H - Carabao Cup) Won 4-1
Istanbul Basaksehir (A - Champions League) Lost 2-0
Arsenal (H) Lost 1-0
RB Leipzig (H - Champions League) Won 5-0
Chelsea (H) Drew 0-0
PSG (A - Champions League) Won 2-1
Everton 1-1 Manchester United, March 1 2020
In what feels like a lifetime ago, the Toffees drew with Manchester United in their last meeting at the start of March - their final match in front of supporters at Goodison Park before the coronavirus shutdown.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin gave Everton an early lead when he blocked David De Gea’s clearance into the net. Bruno Fernandes equalised before the break with a dipping strike from the edge of the box.
Everton thought they had won it in the final seconds when Calvert-Lewin scrambled the ball beyond De Gea, but the strike was ruled out for offside because Gylfi Sigurdsson was sat on the ground in front of the Red Devils goalkeeper.
Everton have been given a huge boost by the return of several key stars, meaning they have a near fully-fit squad.
James Rodriguez, Mason Holgate and Seamus Coleman are all fit again, while Lucas Digne is back from suspension.
That leaves the banned Richarlison and injured Fabian Delph as the only absentees, with Jean-Philippe Gbmain still a few week’s away from his return.
What they said
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti: “It is a great opportunity to forget our two defeats and to stay at the top of the table.
“It is a really important opportunity. It will be difficult because we know Manchester United is a strong, strong team… with experience and a lot of quality.
“It is true they were up and down in this first period of the season. But in some games they played really well.
“We have to accept after they lost their past two games we will face a team with strong, strong motivation.”
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “There’s always pressure and expectations on us. I’ve grown up here. I became a man at Manchester United and I’ve learned how to deal with good and bad times.
“You’re a top coach or manager when you win and you’re bad when you lose, because that’s the last game you played. You’re not really better than your last game. Every game of football becomes history quickly and we’ve just got to go into Goodison Park in a positive frame of mind.
“You have to be mentally strong. There are demands on a Man United player, a coach, or a manager.
“There’s also an expectation, because we are at the best and the biggest club in the world. You don’t expect to have anything but criticism then. It’s just how you deal with that setback. From what I’ve seen from the boys, they’ve been very focused since we’ve come back and [are] ready to give a response.”
A third successive defeat would cap a disappointing few weeks for the Blues, making it just one point from 12 available since the first international break.
Injuries and suspensions have have taken their toll, but the return of so many key players should mean we see a line-up similar to what we witnesses in those glorious first few weeks of the season.
And if that proves the case, then they have a real chance against a United side a shadow of its former self and with a manager seemingly on the brink.