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FA WSL Preview: Everton vs Manchester United | Toffees back in action after two postponements

Everton host second-place United on Sunday 

Everton Women Training Session Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Everton face fellow WSL side Manchester United on Sunday, January 31st at 9:30 a.m. ET/2:30 p.m. GMT, with the game being played at Walton Hall Park. This match was moved to Sunday after its originally scheduled date of January 10th was postponed due to injuries and a covid outbreak that left Everton unable to field to full side.

The last competitive game Everton played came against Bristol City on January 17th; the Toffees won comfortably 4–0. After consecutive postponements against Birmingham City and Tottenham Hotspur in recent weeks, Everton have experienced a longer layoff than expected.

Even with the unforeseen time off, Manager Willie Kirk expects his side to play with intensity and gumption on Sunday against United. “[The break between fixtures] won’t be used as an excuse and I expect a top performance from the team,” Kirk said. “Hopefully, along with that comes a top result.”

Despite losses to Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal before the Bristol victory, aside from the FA Cup Final loss in November, Everton have enjoyed success in cup competitions — the Toffees went 2–1–0 in the Continental Cup group stage, and while they failed to qualify for the knockout round of the competition, they looked convincing in possession and dominant on defense.

After earning promotion just last season, Manager Casey Stoney has her team second in the table. Against the weaker sides in the league, United have looked all of a team that is destined to hoist the trophy come early May. Wins against Birmingham City (5–2), Brighton (3–0), Tottenham (1–0), Aston Villa (2–0) and Bristol City (6–1) have cemented United as true contenders, if not favorites to take home the title.

And even against other title challengers, the Red Devils have performed admirably for a second-year WSL team: Chelsea (1–1 and 1–2), Arsenal (1–0) and Manchester City (2–2) — a game in which Stoney’s side overcame a two-goal deficit at halftime to earn the draw. The only stumbles United have taken this year came in the group stage of the Continental Cup against Liverpool (a 3–1 loss) and to Everton (more to follow).

In the winter window, Everton signed winger Claire Emslie to an 18-month contract, lost Damaris Egurrola to Olympique Lyonnais, loaned Molly Pike to Bristol and signed both Jill Scott and Alisha Lehmann on loan for the remainder of the season, moves that will certainly offset some of the losses sustained during the transfer period.

Then there’s Gabby George, who has been rehabbing a ruptured ACL suffered last February and nearing a return to action. When the 23-year-old center-back is able to suit up for the Toffees, she will add depth at the position, as Megan Finnigan and Rikke Sevecke have been heavily relied upon this season.

A key reason why Manchester United sit in second place with only one loss has been the players buying into Stoney’s tough and rigid style of play. Stoney demands a physicality from her players to impede opponents’ moves up the pitch. With Mary Earps in net, Amy and Millie Turner (unrelated) on defense and Jackie Groenen in midfield pulling the strings, United have one of the most formidable and deepest rosters in the league. However, Stoney will have to find a replacement for American international Tobin Heath, who will be out for 10–12 weeks with an ankle injury.

Last Meeting

These two sides last met in the third and final match of the Continental Cup group stage on December 16. On a dreary night in Liverpool, Everton displayed why many see them as a team with the potential to vie for the top three, defeating United 1–0. The Toffees have the talent to compete with the WSL’s best, it’s simply a matter of proving it on the field. After outlasting United at home in mid-December, Everton will have another chance to defeat the Manchester outfit at Walton Hall come Sunday.

Match Details

Competition: FA Women’s Super League

Date and start time: Sunday, January 31st at 9:30 a.m. ET / 2:30 p.m. GMT

Stadium: Walton Hall Park, Liverpool, England, United Kingdom

Capacity: 2,200 (behind closed doors)

How to Watch/Listen

TV & Radio: N/A

Match Center: evertontv

Live stream: evertontv (free for members, registration required), FA WSL (free, registration required)