It feels like months since United’s last outing. I’m not sure whether that’s because of the boredom the International break breaks or the need we’ve felt to bury our last game to the back of our memories. Losing against your title rivals is always going to be painful but to lose how we did, at the hands of poor officiating, is even harder to take.
It’s obviously not just the fans that are hurting though, with Wayne Rooney making his feelings very clear to the Sky Sports camera as he left the field. But they need to bounce back now and for Rooney, there probably couldn’t be a better team for us to face next!
When not playing against Everton, I seem to kid myself in to feeling some sort of affection for them. I think David Moyes comes across well and he’s done a great job with such little money, Phil Neville is their captain, they have former reds I was fairly fond of, Tim Howard and Louis Saha, in their squad, and essentially, we share a common enemy.
But on match day, it’s different. Whilst not Liverpool scouse, you remember they are scousers when they start singing about Manchester being full of shit. You hear the dog’s abuse they give Rooney, chanting about him dying and it suddenly becomes easier to dislike them.
United need all three points today without question, to make sure we keep within touching distance of Chelsea and Arsenal. Our time to over take them will come around February, hopefully, but for now we just need to make sure we’re keeping up. It’s November and therefore pretty daft to think of a game as a ‘must win’ but that is the mentality our players and fans will have as five o’clock nears.
Rooney will of course be centre of attention, as always, when we play Everton. You can already play out the goal and badge kissing that will follow in your head, but the most important thing is for him to keep his cool. He was not a happy chappy at Stamford Bridge and if things start to go against us this evening you can imagine him boiling over. A Rooney suspension is the last thing we need, so here’s to him adding to his goals tally, which currently sees him fourth highest scorer in the league. He’s scored twice in the eight games he’s played against Everton since joining us so will obviously be eager to improve that record.
After becoming Bulgaria’s top scorer with two goals against Malta, Dimitar Berbatov will likely partner Rooney up front and will be looking to better him position within the top 15 scorers in the league this season. Given Everton’s bottom half of the table status, you would be wrong to assume their defence has been at fault. Everton boast a defensive record as strong as fourth placed Spurs so it will be Berbatov’s job to get the ball behind their back line.
Darren Fletcher was given the run around when representing Scotland during the week, with that Welsh lad who turned us down showing him up. But he’s now two games in to his recovery from that fairly lengthy injury so we’ll be relying on him to protect our back four, which could be fairly shakey. John O’Shea and Jonny Evans were both hurt whilst on International duty, with Rio Ferdinand being tipped to miss the rest of 2009 by some areas of the press. That could leave just Patrice Evra, Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic, hopefully returning, meaning maybe Rafael could come in at right back, with Neville still suspended. We’re very thin defensively though so will need Fletch to help out.
Michael Carrick was one of the several players to travel with England for that friendly against Brazil, although picked up an injury whilst there so unlikely to feature for us this afternoon. Owen Hargreaves may be inching closer but the manager believes it’s his lacking confidence slowing him down. So that suggests a well rested Paul Scholes should return to the first team which means I’d rather see Ryan Giggs left out. Bring Giggsy on if we need him but we should trust our younger wingers today. Nani and Valencia to start for me but of course I’d like to see Obertan get a run out. Much to the dismay of others, I’m sticking with my Nani campaign, although it may be in vain given his recent falling out with the manager and whinge in the press.
Louis Saha should get a good welcome from the crowd. Whilst plenty of fans became frustrated with him because of the injuries, there is no denying he is a quality player who worked hard for our club during a trying period. Louis described his move to Everton as “a step down” which reflects his feelings towards our club. He bided his time on our bench, waiting for his chance, and when it came he took it. He never threw the temper tantrum Ruud did and had it not been for his unreliability in terms of fitness, I’m sure Saha would still be here now. The fact he’s scored as many league goals as Rooney and Van Persie this season is testament to that!
Points are the most important thing, certainly, but I really, really would like to see a performance today. We put on a great display at Stamford Bridge and it would be brilliant if we could build on that today. Everton are not having a good season and we need to take advantage of that, score early, and see what we can do to our goal difference. But United are far too unpredictable these days for us to forecast any possible result!