The road to Wembley starts here, but a spring trip to the capital is the last thing on the minds of Evertonians as the club once again finds itself mired in crisis.
Tuesday’s disastrous capitulation against Brighton combined with other results on Wednesday saw the Toffees fall into the Premier League relegation zone.
Here we go again.
After last year’s dramatic escape, after which we were assured by the hierarchy that there would be no repeat, there is now a genuine fear Everton won’t be so lucky this time unless there is dramatic improvement.
There is no doubt that Frank Lampard’s job is under threat, but the issue concerning the supporters more is that there are fundamental issues beyond the manager’s dugout.
It has been proven time and time again that simply changing the manager will not resolve those issues, which is why supporters are calling for change at the very top. That alongside a lack of suitable candidates may keep Lampard in a job – for now.
What will also help is results on the pitch. At the very least there needs to be an improvement on the Brighton display. Something to build on, to cling to, ahead of what could be a defining few weeks in the history of the club.
A trip to Old Trafford is always tough, but Manchester United are looking particularly imposing at the moment.
Erik ten Hag looks to have shaken things up, removing the disruptive influence of Cristiano Ronaldo, adding steel to the defence and midfield, and bringing the best out of the forward players.
The result is a run of six wins on the spin in all competitions, including four successive clean sheets, to raise hopes among the supporters that a return to the successes enjoyed under Sir Alex Ferguson may not be too far away.
Everton 1-2 Man Utd, October 9 2022
You only have to go back three months for the last meeting between the two sides. Alex Iwobi gave Everton an early lead but goals from Antony and Ronaldo – his last goal for United – earned the points for the Red Devils.
Frank Lampard says he will not field a dramatically weakened side like the one in the Carabao Cup defeat to Bournemouth in November, though some changes are expected.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is fatigued so may miss out as he continues his return to full fitness, which could mean a first Everton start for Ellis Simms.
Nathan Patterson is absent as he begins a six week lay-off with a medial knee ligament injury. Yerry Mina could return after recovering from illness but Anthony Gordon may not be well enough to feature.
What they said
Everton manager Frank Lampard: We want to go out and perform well, show performance with a real work-ethic and passion. I have always said that ignites fans in the right way. That’s our responsibility.
“To play for Everton, you can enjoy things like 5,000 people coming before games, something that helped us get victories last year.
“Sometimes you have to show big courage because they [the fans] are a passionate fanbase, and I have got no problem with that.
“At certain times this season we have done that. Do we need the fans sometimes when we are below par? Yes, we do. But at this moment it’s on us to bring them with us, to stand up and play for Everton.”
Man Utd boss Erik Ten Hag: “For me, the cup is always special. I know in England the FA Cup is even more [special]. Higher expectations, higher standards, as in the Netherlands.
“It’s a different cup and in not so many games, you can achieve a lot. Also, you have to come away a winner - this is possible when you draw and there is replay, but, after two, it’s a knockout, so I like that.”
There will be 9,000 Everton fans making the trip to Old Trafford on a cold evening in January. Given all that is happening with the club that is pretty remarkable.
They are not ready to give up on the club just yet.