The Toffees bounced back from that Newcastle defeat in fine fashion, battling their way to a 2-1 win at Leeds – just their second victory in 38 league games at Elland Road.
Meanwhile United absolutely mullered poor Southampton 9-0 to stay second in the table behind rivals City, who looked to be ominously clicking into gear.
The Red Devils had lost their previous home game against rock-bottom Sheffield United, highlighting the unpredictability of the league this season, which also provides some mitigation for Everton’s up and down form.
They certainly seem more comfortable taking on sides that play on the front foot, like Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds. Carlo Ancelotti picked a side full of pace in a clear attempt to match the Whites’ energy and was rewarded with a fine victory in what was a thrilling game with chances at both ends.
It was a welcome response to their weekend disappointment and the perfect start to a pivotal week of the season, with the FA Cup fifth round clash against Tottenham lying in wait after Saturday’s game.
When Bernard put Everton ahead against Manchester United at Goodison Park in November the TV cameras immediately focused on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, amid speculation his job could be in threat if they lost a fourth Premier League game out of seven.
They didn’t, of course, and the Red Devils have rarely looked back since.
Victory at Goodison was the first of 11 in their next 16 games, including another win over the Toffees in the Carabao Cup, with the aforementioned 2-1 defeat at home to Sheffield United their first league loss since November.
That fine run has lifted the Red Devils into title contention, having briefly topped the table earlier this month, and justified the club’s continued faith in Solskjaer.
Their record-equalling 9-0 thrashing of the Saints also means this could be the worst possible time for Everton to head across the M62.
The Toffees’ record at Old Trafford is bad enough as it is without United being in such good form. Everton have won just one of their last 27 visits, that being the famous Bryan Oviedo-inspired win against David Moyes’ Red Devils in December 2013.
Everton 0-2 Manchester United (Carabao Cup quarter-final) December 23, 2020
Everton’s Carabao Cup hopes were ended at the quarter-final stage shortly before Christmas thanks to two late goals from Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial.
Leeds (A) Won 2-1
Newcastle (H) Lost 2-0
Leicester (H) Drew 1-1
Sheffield Wed (H – FA Cup) Won 3-0
Wolves (A) Won 2-1
Southampton (H) Won 9-0
Arsenal (A) Drew 0-0
Sheff Utd (H) Lost 2-1
Liverpool (H – FA Cup) Won 3-2
Fulham (A) Won 2-1
Everton will once again be without Jordan Pickford because of a rib injury, with Robin Olsen set to deputise once more.
Allan is also not yet available to return after a thigh injury, but Carlo Ancelotti did confirm the Brazilian is back in training.
Jean-Phillipe Gbamin is also still out and Ancelotti does not know when he will return.
What they said
Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti: “We played two games against Manchester United at home and lost both. There is something we have to change, for sure.
“If we follow the same way we played [in the Goodison games], we are going to lose.
“We tried to plan a different strategy and we will see how it works.
“The mental aspect is really important but we have to practically try to do something different – to create more problems than in the past games we played against them.
“United is a fantastic team, with a good mix between experience and talented young players.
“The players know it will be difficult but I hope it will be difficult for United to play against us.”
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “He [Ancelotti] is a manager that you really look up to and respect.
“You can see roots of that at Everton now as well. They’ve started the season fantastically, now they’ve won their last four away games.
“It’s a team that you know that you’re in for a battle when you play against them.”
You can never be confident as an Evertonian heading to Old Trafford, especially with United playing so well of late. But this Toffees team has shown its ability to surprise, particularly away from home, so nothing can be ruled out, even if that is much more in hope than expectation.