As part of our Everton Classic Game Rewind, the entire site coverage is taking you back to the fateful weekend of 19th-21st May, 1995 (more details here). Here’s how we see the Blues lining up for tomorrow’s FA Cup Final.
Everton’s whirlwind season is one match away from drawing to a close.
Twelve consecutive matches without a win to start the season seemed like it should have derailed the Toffees permanently, but late results against Chelsea, Southampton, Ipswich Town, and Coventry City have secured Everton’s place in the top flight for next season — leaving just this weekend’s FA Cup final against Manchester United to play.
Joe Royle has pulled all the right strings since taking the reins from Mike Walker in November, but Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils present an enormous challenge for the Toffees in their quest to procure silverware in what initially seemed to be a lost season.
United will enter the match with plenty of motivation, having been beaten out by Blackburn Rovers for the league title on the final day of the season. Royle must then get his squad selection and tactics just right in order to have a chance to pull off the improbable.
Tactics and Formation
United nearly won the league for good reason — this is a talented squad with a capable manager that will present a real challenge to the Toffees. The good news for Everton is that the Red Devils will be without three key players — Eric Cantona (suspended), Andrei Kanchelskis (injury), and Andy Cole (cup-tied).
That likely means Mark Hughes will lead the line for United, which I expect will come out in a 4-4-1-1 with Brian McClair playing off the main striker.
What does that mean for Everton, tactically? Frankly, it doesn’t change much. The Toffees won’t expect to win the midfield battle against Nicky Butt and Paul Ince, so Royle will likely look to sit deep with two blocks of four, make life difficult for the second-choice United attacking duo, and rely on counters and set pieces to create chances.
Oh, and of course a fellow by the name of Neville Southall to make a few timely saves.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Neville Southall - 10/10
Gary Ablett - 9/10
David Unsworth - 9/10
The youngster has been a revelation in the heart of the defence this season, and continues Everton’s proud tradition of youngsters coming through the Academy in that position.
Dave Watson - 10/10
Matt Jackson - 10/10
Earl Barrett remains cup-tied, after appearing for Aston Villa earlier in the competition. That leaves no real competition for Jackson at right-back.
Barry Horne - 9/10
Joe Parkinson - 9/10
It’s a tough spot for boyhood Evertonian John Ebbrell, who appeared in three of Everton’s four FA Cup fixtures before the semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur. Ebbrell missed out due to suspension in that one, and I just don’t see Royle making a change to the heart of his team after Horne and Parkinson played such a vital role in the thrashing of Spurs.
Andy Hinchcliffe - 10/10
Anders Limpar - 8/10
Graham Stuart- 9/10
Paul Rideout - 7/10
Royle’s most difficult decision will be up top. Rideout has been the main main for most of the season, with 14 goals in the league. But Duncan Ferguson could be healthy enough to start as well, and the Scot’s raw power should serve the Toffees well against United’s hefty centrehalves if the majority of their chances wind up coming from set pieces.
The true wild card is Daniel Amokachi. The Nigerian striker came on as something of an accident following confusion about a potential injury to Rideout in the semi-final, but then proceeded to score twice in the final 20 minutes to close out the match against Tottenham Hotspur.
Daniel Amokachi - The more likely outcome, however, is that Ferguson and Amokachi serve as Royle’s options off the bench. The duo will give him some attacking options should the Toffees need a late goal.
Can Royle pull the right strings to complete the nearly miraculous turnaround at Everton Football Club this season? It’s a very tough road ahead, but he’ll certainly go down in history if he can pull it off.