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Everton at Manchester United: Match Preview | Depleted Toffees seek rare Old Trafford win

The Blues have a poor record at the home of the Red Devils

Manchester United v Everton - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Everton’s final match before the second international break of the campaign is arguably their toughest challenge of the season to far as they head to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United.

The Toffees go into the game in fifth place and one of five teams on 13 points from six games, a more than satisfactory return.

They weren’t at their fluid best during the win against Norwich last weekend, but they were never going to be given the number of injuries an already-thin squad had to contend with.

Luckily the Canaries look a particularly poor side and did not offer much of an attacking threat, meaning it was perhaps a case of the right match at the right time for the Blues.

Everton v Norwich City - Premier League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images
Everton v Norwich City - Premier League Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus

Maybe I am being a touch harsh given the likes of Abdoulaye Doucoure, Allan, Yerry Mina, Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend were once again impressive.

Salomon Rondon meanwhile looked desperately unfit and ready to be substituted after 55 minutes. Rafael Benitez resisted however and will hope the 90 minutes will help the summer signing regain some match sharpness.

There is also light at the end of the tunnel regarding injuries, with Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Seamus Coleman all pictured in training this week.

They may not be fit in time for Saturday, but after being left out of their respective international squads the two-week break before the Watford game is the ideal opportunity to get back up to full speed.

The opposition

There is only really one show in town when it comes to Manchester United at the moment. I’ve not seen as much fuss surrounding a new signing as we witnessed with Cristiano Ronaldo. The hype machine was off the scale.

In true Ronaldo style though he has lived up to that hype, scoring five goals in as many matches, including a stoppage-time winner against Villarreal in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Manchester United v Villarreal CF: Group F - UEFA Champions League Photo by Jan Kruger - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images
Manchester United v Villarreal CF: Group F - UEFA Champions League Photo by Jan Kruger - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

That eased the pressure that was starting to build on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after three defeats in four games against Young Boys, West Ham (in the cup) and Aston Villa.

The supporters have yet to be fully convinced by the Norwegian, despite his status as a club legend. There is a feeling that, given the investment in the side, this season is make-or-break and a failure to land any silverware will lead to some questions being asked.

United fans can at least take comfort from their excellent recent record against Everton, losing just one of their last 12 meetings with the Toffees. Everton also traditionally struggle at Old Trafford, winning just twice in 29 trips in the Premier League era.

Previous meeting

Man Utd 3-3 Everton, February 6, 2021*

Manchester United v Everton - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored a 95th-minute equaliser to earn Everton a point in a rip-roaring encounter back in February. The Toffees had earlier fought back from two goals down thanks to strikes from Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez, before Scott McTominay’s header had seemingly sealed the points for the Red Devils before DCL’s late intervention.

*The two sides also met in a pre-season friendly in August, but we don’t want to talk about that.

Team news

Richarlison, Seamus Coleman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are still unavailable despite returning to individual training this week.

Andre Gomes is also missing and Alex Iwobi doubtful, though Jean-Philippe Gbamin is available to return.

What they said

Manchester United v Villarreal CF: Group F - UEFA Champions League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “We’ve done that so many times at this club: come back at the end of tight games, difficult games. The boost and energy you get in the group after a win like this has to be built on.

“Then again, it’s a very, very quick turnaround. It’s a different turnaround from last year when we when we played Wednesday night (away at Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir) and Saturday morning. Still, the players are not going to get caught out. We’ve got to start like we finished on Wednesday night.”

Everton v Norwich City - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Everton manager Rafa Benitez:“I think Cristiano is a great professional, with his age he’s doing really well. But you can’t just focus on one player, even if he is as good as Cristiano.

“We need a gameplan to try to stop them and then be positive in our approach to try to score goals. It’s not just Cristiano, the others can score goals.

“It [plan] is to concentrate from the first minute until the last, to present a team that can compete and get the three points.

“We will try to be strong in defence and try to score goals.”

Final word

Everton’s dreadful record at Old Trafford means expectations will be tempered as they head across the M62 on Saturday. However, the Toffees’ spirited start to the season combined with United’s patchy form means they should not be intimidated. They have a fearsome attacking threat no doubt, but they are vulnerable at the back. The issue is whether Everton have the requisite firepower on the pitch to exploit those weaknesses.