Everton host Manchester United on Saturday with the visitors under immense pressure to pick up a win at Goodison Park.
Despite beating PSG and RB Leipzig in the Champions League, Man United continue to struggle in the Premier League, taking just seven points from six games to leave them languishing in 15th ahead of Gameweek 8. To make matters worse, the Red Devils also fell 2-1 to Turkish side Istanbul Başakşehir in midweek.
It has even been suggested that Everton now hold the fate of the Man United dugout in their hands, with a defeat at Goodison Park potentially set to see the final wheel of Ole’s proverbial bandwagon fall off. Two of Man United’s last three managers have ended their Old Trafford careers on Merseyside, including David Moyes’ dismissal after a defeat at Everton in 2014.
After a fine start, Everton have struggled themselves recently, taking just one point from their last three games and slipping to fourth in the table, three adrift of leaders Liverpool. That being said, the absences of James Rodriguez, Richarlison, Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman haven’t helped across the last two defeats to Southampton and Newcastle United.
So, with a seemingly huge amount on the line, let’s dig into some predictions for Saturday’s game…
Everton vs Man Utd odds (via William Hill):
- Everton: 2/1
- Draw: 12/5
- Man Utd: 11/8
1. Key players return to give Everton creative boost
As mentioned, the likes of Rodriguez and Digne sitting out the trip to Newcastle due to respective injuries and suspensions hurt Carlo Ancelotti immensely. After all, the pair rank first and second among Everton players in terms of chances created and assists this season with Rodriguez on 17 and three respectively, and Digne on 11 and two.
Digne has now served his suspension for his red card at Southampton — reduced to one match on appeal — and is cleared to return to the line-up, while Ancelotti believes Rodriguez has recovered from the injury which sidelined him at St James’ Park last week. Similarly, there’s a good chance Coleman will slot back in at right-back after Ancelotti also confirmed his return to fitness, giving Everton a much-needed boost in the wide areas.
It’s not all good news, of course. Andre Gomes picked up a knock against Newcastle, initially offering a toss-up between Fabian Delph and Gylfi Sigurdsson for the Portuguese’s starting spot. Ancelotti has now confirmed Delph is out with a knock but given how blunt the Toffees have been over their past two games, the Italian would likely have opted for the creative exploits of Sigurdsson anyway. The Iceland international rattled the bar last time out and even when off form, he is capable of moments of magic.
And then there’s the absence of Richarlison, who is serving the final game of his suspension for the red card he picked up in the Merseyside derby in October. Ancelotti has tried and failed with a couple of potential solutions in this area, with Sigurdsson lacking mobility and Alex Iwobi failing to do much competently against Southampton and hardly impressing against Newcastle despite his assist.
Brazilian playmaker Bernard livened things up from the bench against the Magpies, taking risks and attempting the killer passes which had been previously lacking for Everton prior to his introduction. He’ll be hoping that was enough to convince Ancelotti to start him this time.
Predicted Everton XI: Pickford; Coleman, Mina, Keane, Digne; Allan, Doucoure, Sigurdsson; Rodriguez, Calvert-Lewin, Bernard.
2. Lindelof adds to selection woes alongside midfield headache
As if things weren’t bad enough already, it was revealed that Man United were unable to introduce Victor Lindelof against Istanbul Başakşehir due to a back problem, making him a major doubt for Saturday’s trip to Goodison Park. Axel Tuanzebe was replaced at centre-back at half-time by Scott McTominay due to picking up a yellow card, but seems the most likely candidate to deputise for the Sweden international here. Luke Shaw will remain at left-back in the absence of Alex Telles.
All things considered, it is in midfield where Man United’s Norwegian tactician still has the biggest headache. More specifically, what to do with Paul Pogba? The France international is undoubtedly talented, but is spending more time drifting out of games or, more worryingly, conceding penalties right now than contributing positively in the attacking third for Man United. The Red Devils have failed to score in successive Premier League games so Pogba is likely to start again on Saturday, but Man United will arguably be more desperate than ever for a big performance from the former Juventus man.
In attack, the pacey attacking trio of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood are likely to figure around the creative powers of Bruno Fernandes, with Edinson Cavani continuing to sit on the bench as a back-up option.
Predicted Man Utd XI: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Tuanzebe, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial.
3. Calvert-Lewin hot streak
After failing to score for the first time in the Premier League this season against Southampton, Dominic Calvert-Lewin got back on track against Newcastle, bagging a late goal to give Everton a slither of hope.
Of course, the Toffees were unable to pull things back but the goal did demonstrate Calvert-Lewin’s ability to produce on minimal service, coming from just one of two shots on target across the trips to Southampton and Newcastle combined.
Calvert-Lewin has only ever scored one goal against Man Utd but, then again, he’s defying all logic this season, going from a hard-working youngster who was wasteful in front of goal to a dead-eyed assassin, picking off teams at will.
Given Man United’s struggles at centre-back so far in 2020/21, this newly-minted England international could cause havoc.
4. Rashford set to have his say
None of this doom and gloom is to say that Man United don’t carry a considerable attacking threat themselves. Any squad containing Martial, Fernandes, Cavani and Rashford is always likely to cause some trouble.
It is the latter we’re focusing on here, with Rashford providing three goals and three assists in his last four Premier League away games for the Red Devils. The forward has failed to score in Man United’s last two games, but will still have the memory of that Champions League hat-trick against RB Leipzig fresh in his mind.
Rashford is yet to register a single goal or assist across eight appearances against Everton throughout his career. He’ll be trying his level best to change that here in order to ease the pressure on his beleaguered manager.
Relevant Everton vs Man Utd betting odds (via William Hill):
- Dominic Calvert-Lewin anytime goalscorer @ 21/20
- Marcus Rashford to have over two shots on target @ 9/2
- Penalty to be awarded and scored @ 21/10
5. Going down to penalties?
It’s a Premier League game, sure, but Saturday’s clash at Goodison Park might well be decided from the penalty spot.
No side in the English top-flight has conceded more spot-kicks than Man United’s four, with Pogba responsible for two of them, while they’ve won three of their own — the third-highest amount in the league.
Everton, meanwhile, are a little more modest with just one penalty won and one conceded. However, that conceded spot-kick came in their last match against Newcastle and with the lightning pace of Man United’s forward line to contend with, Ancelotti might just be on edge when the ball makes it to the Everton 18-yard box.