As Everton sits in fifth position in the Premier League table, there is some reason for optimism as the team nears the second international break of the season. They have demonstrated that they can win and score without their two biggest names, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison. Despite the injuries to the duo, new names like Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray have stepped in to fill the void with regular goal contributions.
In a slightly different role, Abdoulaye Doucoure is playing even better than he did before his freak injury towards the end of last season. As I have stated previously, this was a major issue for us last year and absolutely played a major part in the wilting of the club as last season wore on. Despite the injuries of some key pieces, new boss Rafa Benitez felt comfortable letting James Rodriguez bandy off to Qatar, which will hopefully generate January opportunities in the transfer window, even if Marcel Brands isn't always very keen to sign players in the middle of the season.
There are surely things to work on at this point in the season as well, and the two losses to Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers are sharp reminders of that. The loss to QPR stung more than losing to a Villa club at Villa Park who are young, talented and likely fighting for Europe.
While Townsend and Gray have been game-changers for the Blues, Salomon Rondon still needs to round into Premier League shape and form for his new club; Asmir Begovic has played well behind Jordan Pickford in the goal when he’s been asked to, and so while players can always perform better, I have no specific gripes with the elder statesmen at this time.
These deficiencies can be overcome over the course of an entire season, of course, and there is time to watch that unfold and unfurl, yet they can be silenced for at least a few days should Everton find a way to defeat Manchester United at Old Trafford. The second international break will feel different should the Toffees be able to overcome a very talented, very tough Red Devils outfit which now features the famous Cristiano Ronaldo once again; do the Blues even have a chance?
Yes, Everton has a chance to beat United at Old Trafford
Without DCL and Richy, offensive production will be something that Everton must find from all of its players and the build-up will have to be really interesting to fool United. Of course, there is also the possibility that the Red Devils come out flat, as they have a tendency to play down to their competition during both the Jose Mourinho and current Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer eras.
Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure have formed a very positive offensive and defensive partnership in the middle of the pitch, while both Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray have really aided the Toffees with their speed, finishing, and playmaking abilities. Both sets of duos will have to play at the very high level mentioned in order to break down United, who seem to claw their way back into the matches they do not completely blow, as the recent UCL group stage victory against Villarreal demonstrates.
If Soloman Rondon can contribute in a meaningful way in this match, he could very well be the difference-maker, as I believe the organization of the Toffees has improved so as to be able to keep the team in a tough match against a real, quality opponent. If not the Venezuelan, then it might be up to one of the young strikers, Ellis Simms or Lewis Dobbin, to shock the world on such a massive stage.
While Everton have not played particularly great against Manchester United in recent memory, this match will be between an Everton side bossed by Rafa, who has brought a different energy to the Blues than even his predecessor, the famous Carlo Ancelotti. He has demonstrated that a team that looks very much like the one which he had last season is, in fact, a very different team.
A win would be massive; it would propel us up the table even further, possibly distancing ourselves, if even just a bit, from Brighton, who sit in sixth place and play a red-hot Arsenal at the Amex. It would give the team great confidence to know that they could go up against a top club with top talent and, even without their own world-class talent, go into Old Trafford and dig out a victory and three points.
Neither team will be mortally wounded by losing, yet confidence is important to stockpile early on so that it can be turned to in the darkest moments later in a season. The Toffees know that they have a great chance to prove themselves here and United knows they have a great chance to right the ship, yet who will do what they know they must to get the job done? We will see; COYB!