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Everton at Manchester United: The Opposition View

We spoke to United fan and writer Colin Damms prior to Saturday’s clash at Old Trafford

Everton v Manchester United - Carabao Cup Quarter Final
United have already won twice at Goodison Park this season, including December’s 2-0 EFL Cup win
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Everton will be after their fifth successive away league win when they visit Manchester United on Saturday.

Old Trafford is not a happy hunting ground for the Blues, though, having won there just twice in the Premier League era.

And they face a United side who equalled the record for the biggest Premier League win in their last match, as they thrashed Southampton 9-0 at home.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men, who have already won twice at Goodison Park this term, sit second, three points behind Man City having played a game more.

Ahead of Saturday’s game, we spoke to Colin Damms, writer for SB Nation’s United site, The Busby Babe:

RBM: Firstly, how do you rate United’s chances of winning the title this season?

Colin: Not great based on City’s current form, but I do think their upcoming schedule is a lot tougher than the run of games they’re coming out of.

If United can build on their last performance and start scoring more goals, I think they’ve got a decent shot to at least keep pace at the top. Unfortunately, I don’t think they have the ability or mentality to get in front and pull away.

Manchester United v Southampton - Premier League
Solskjaer’s United have exceeded expectations so far this term
Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

RBM: United made no senior signings during the January transfer window. Did that disappoint you?

Colin: It is a bit disappointing, but was expected given the financial hit they took because of COVID-19.

They were able to move some more high-wage squad absentees from the books, so hopefully they’re gearing up for some key summer moves.

RBM: Aside from the margin of victory, what pleased you most about United’s 9-0 win over Southampton on Tuesday?

Colin: The way that they were able to consistently break down a team sitting back was very encouraging given their poor scoring form recently, even in the games won.

I also like that Solskjaer took the opportunity to get Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek, and Daniel James involved in a strong attacking display. They’ve each struggled to find confidence, minutes, or both, but contributed to some good goals in the second half.

Manchester United v Southampton - Premier League
United demolished Southampton 9-0 on Tuesday
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

RBM: Conversely, what went wrong for United in their 2-1 home defeat to Sheffield United last week?

Colin: United just didn’t create enough good chances in front of goal.

Against weak opposition especially, you need to put the ball in the back of the net early, and the longer it took to break them down, the worse it seemed.

RBM: Bruno Fernandes seems to have come in for criticism lately for some quieter performances. Has that been fair?

Colin: It has been somewhat fair, but I think it also shows the at-times unhealthy reliance the team has on him, and to an extent Marcus Rashford, for offensive production.

As a midfielder who already has 17 goals in all competitions, it is unfair to expect him to carry the weight in attack, but that doesn’t mean he’s completely off the hook for mistakes.

I suspect he is tired too, despite his comments, along with every other first-team regular in the Premier League.

Manchester United v Southampton - Premier League
Fernandes scored from the spot in United’s 9-0 win
Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

RBM: How much has Luke Shaw improved at left-back this season, and in what areas has he most progressed?

Colin: We talked about this on our podcast this week, but it feels like his progression from good to one of the best in the Premier League has come under Solskjaer. He’s seen the pitch more often, which has helped, but he’s also had more competition for his spot.

Brandon Williams and now Alex Telles have come into the first team and put in some decent performances, and were both answered by great runs of form by Shaw. He’s stronger now than he was earlier in his career, and it seems to have made him better dribbling up the pitch and joining the attack.

He’s also making fewer mistakes man-marking, and the improved defensive planning in midfield has helped take some of the pressure off as well.

RBM: How do you expect United to set up on Saturday?

Colin: With Paul Pogba rested [against Southampton], I expect Solskjaer to play either the diamond or adapted 4-2-3-1 where he plays a bit wide of the formation.

Fernandes at no. 10 with Scott McTominay and Fred behind, Rashford and Edinson Cavani in attack, and the usual back four of Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Manchester United v Southampton - Premier League
Pogba could be recalled for United against Everton on Saturday
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

RBM: Who do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

Colin: Fernandes is becoming the easy answer to this question for any match, but I think Cavani and Rashford could as well. They atoned for poor performances against Arsenal, and will be hungry to score more goals on Saturday.

Martial scored a couple of really good goals as well; perhaps he gets a start or makes a difference off the bench.

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?

Colin: I’ll go with a 2-1 win for United, coming from behind.

Our thanks to Colin for his time.